OGDEN — A long-discussed FrontRunner commuter rail station at the Business Depot Ogden is inching closer to reality.
On Wednesday, the Utah Transit Authority board approved an agreement with Ogden City and Weber County that calls for UTA to eventually reimburse the two localities for right-of-way acquisitions needed to build a FrontRunner station on the northern end of the BDO.
In late 2018, the Weber Area Council of Governments approved $3 million in county funds to be used by Ogden to preserve land for the proposed station. A $32 million project to build the station on BDO grounds immediately east of the Standard-Examiner building near west 2nd Street is listed on the Wasatch Front Regional Council’s Transportation Improvement Program. The project also calls for the installation of a new, dedicated track to the station from the Ogden Intermodal Transit Center.
The plan calls for a local funding match of $16 million, which would likely come from a variety of state, county and city sources. The remaining $16 million for the project would be sought from the Federal Transit Administration.
UTA Project Development Manager Hal Johnson said once UTA decides to extend its FrontRunner line north of Ogden, the agency would then reimburse the city and the county, with the $3 million set to go back into the county’s corridor preservation fund.
“Once we build a project in the future and use the property, we would repay the (county) right-of-way fund at the original $3 million value,” Johnson said.
Johnson said there’s no firm schedule for exactly when the commuter line might be extended north, but there are some FrontRunner planning and engineering studies on the horizon that will help better provide a timeline. Nonetheless, he said, it’s important to have the land in hand.
Negotiations are currently taking place with Nelson Intermountain Crane, which currently owns the site where the station is proposed to be built. There’s a subdivision just southeast of the site, but Johnson said no homes would be impacted by any planned acquisitions.
The project has been discussed in Weber County, Ogden City and state government circles for years and local officials have long touted the BDO as an ideal FrontRunner stop.
The 1,118-acre business park has more than 6,000 employees and more than 125 businesses, including the Standard-Examiner. The park also has more than 200 acres of land that can still be developed. By the time the facility is built out (which could take at least 15 years), the employee population will exceed 10,000.
Johnson said the BDO justifies building another FrontRunner station in Ogden, less than 3 miles from the UTA Intermodal Hub near 23rd Street and Wall Avenue.
“It’s actually pretty close to the Ogden station,” he said. “But given the size of the job center, we think it’s important to preserve this station location.”
UTA board member Beth Holbrook echoed Johnson’s sentiments, noting that the BDO draws employees from all over Weber County.
“There’s a lot of relative density to these different types of business in the (BDO),” she said. “This is going to be valuable not just to Ogden but the surrounding communities that kind of are connected to it.”
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said he’s heard the clamoring for a FrontRunner stop at BDO for years.
“And it’s justified,” the mayor said. “We’ve found that a lot of people at the BDO don’t use public transit because there’s a lot of work there where you’re on a very strict schedule and if your taking the bus and maybe get stopped by a train, you’ll be late. But rail service is more predictable and people would use it at the BDO if it was there.”