OGDEN — While preliminary utility construction on Ogden’s Bus Rapid Transit project already has begun, local transit officials say a new agreement with the federal government will allow mainline construction to begin in March.
Utah Transit Authority Executive Director Carolyn Gonot said the agency received a “letter of no prejudice” on Jan. 12 from the Federal Transit Authority, which allows UTA to begin construction on the $100 million-plus project before a federal Small Starts grant is finalized in the summer. Essentially, the FTA is allowing UTA to complete some $23 million of construction on the project ahead of the formal grant award — money that will be reimbursed when the $65 million in federal funding is eventually awarded.
Finalizing the grant is seen by officials as a formality, with the FTA already committing to the money after a several-years-long process carried out by UTA, Ogden City and Weber County.
“That allows us to begin those (mainline) construction activities while we work on getting the grant executed,” Gonot said. “This is really good news for us.”
The BRT will provide a 5.3-mile transit connection between downtown Ogden, Weber State University and McKay-Dee Hospital. In May of last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it would contribute $65 million toward the project through the Small Starts grant. In December, the DOT announced it would contribute another $10.6 million to the project as part of the FTA’s Capital Investment Grants Program. The Ogden project was one of 41 selected for funding nationwide.
The service will originate at the Ogden UTA transit center at 2350 Wall Ave., head east on 23rd Street to Washington Boulevard, go south along Washington Boulevard to 25th Street, turn east along 25th Street to Harrison Boulevard, then south to WSU and a planned transit center at the Dee Events Center. McKay-Dee would be the final stop on the line.
According to the UTA project brief, stations will be located at the transit center, The Junction, several other spots downtown, along 25th Street and Harrison Boulevard, Ogden High School, WSU, the Dee Events Center and the hospital.
UTA has projected around 3,000 riders per day from the Ogden Intermodal Center to WSU and McKay-Dee, but Janelle Robertson, UTA project manager, said the system will take over WSU’s campus shuttle, which carried some 5,000 riders per day, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“About 8,000 riders a day,” Robertson said. “That’s pretty good ridership numbers.”
A fixed transit route through Ogden’s downtown to the university and the hospital has been discussed and studied for some 16 years. According to Ogden City Council documents, an Ogden/WSU transit study commenced in November 2004 — the first iteration of the project called for a streetcar system, an option that was deemed too expensive by the council more than three years ago.
“For such a long time, this was this thing in the future,” said UTA Board member Beth Holbrook. “Now all of a sudden we’re really kind of focusing in getting everything done ... it’s exciting to see it get to this level.”
UTA officials say the project should be up and running by August 2022, aligning with the fall start of school at WSU.