Congress OKs $3M for Light Rail Extension

The Utah Transit Authority and the U received the congressional green light on the hospital light rail line Tuesday.

The U.S. Congress appropriated $3 million to extend the TRAX line from Rice-Eccles Stadium to University Hospital as part of its annual Transportation Appropriations Act.

The act also included $14 million in funding for the new university line that starts at the Delta Center and travels to the stadium. The university line will start operating on Dec. 15.

News of the hospital-line appropriation excited U administrators.

“Clearly, this is such an important signal from Congress that recognizes the need of the university to transport employees, patients and students to the health sciences medical center,” said Nancy Lyon, U assistant vice president for government affairs.

The Utah Department of Transportation estimates that the new extension will help move 30,000 employees and patients to the medical center each year.

However, with the mile-long extension costing $82 million to complete, the $3 million appropriated by Congress only starts to fund the line.

By earmarking the funds, Congress has identified the project as important, but until UTA has a full-funding agreement signed, the extension is not a done deal.

UTA and the U want the federal government to fork over 50 percent of the costs. The Federal Transit Authority must make that decision and has supported UTA in the past.

Federal Transit Administrator Jennifer Dorn will attend the opening gala for the university line on Dec. 15, and some believe she will make an announcement then.

If she does sign the agreement, promising $41 million to the project, UTA will break ground on the extension after the close of the Paralymics in March.

The remainder of the money will come from UTA and local government.

“Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new era in transit for the university, and will help us address some of our growth issues,” Lyon said.

[email protected]