Utah Rail Plan Key to Greener, More Sustainable Communities

Posted on May 18, 2011 by Bruce Ross

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As the Utah Transportation Authority (UTA) nears completion of its Frontlines 2015 Program, the agency has beat its original schedule by 15 years and is forecasted to beat the budget, too, as the five rail lines comprising the program are slated for completion under the original $2.8 billion budget.

Moreover, UTA and its partners — including federal, state and local government; the transportation industry and the public — will have succeeded in providing an efficient alternative to the congested highways along the Wasatch Front, the narrow valley that is home to two million people in a chain of cities that includes Salt Lake City, Provo and Ogden.

As one component of a comprehensive plan to improve mobility and air quality and decrease traffic throughout the Wasatch Front, the commuter rail line and four light rail lines in the Frontlines Program will add 70 miles to UTA's existing 64-mile rail network. This makes Frontlines a key to realizing Utah's vision of greener, more sustainable communities and a better quality of life.

Voter approval

The Frontlines project was originally targeted for completion in 2030, however, in 2004, local elected officials along the Wasatch Front suggested accelerating the implementation of the transit elements of the region's 2030 long-range transportation plan to 2015. In November 2006, Utah County and Salt Lake County residents voted to increase their sales tax by one-quarter of a cent, enabling accelerated delivery of these projects. In addition, three of the five Frontlines light rail projects required no federal funding, thanks to the successful referendum.

 "We are fortunate to live in a region with visionary leaders with titles such as elected official, business or community leader," says Michael Allegra, GM, UTA. "These visionaries not only saw the need, they acted by making a string of hard decisions; decisions that are beginning to pay off. The payoff is being seen with expanded economic growth while maintaining Utah's unique quality of life.

"These leaders challenged us with an aggressive plan for improving the region's transit system as well as provided Utah's traditional intergovernmental cooperation," adds Allegra. "We have enjoyed unparalleled partnerships with the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), our two Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and an incredibly supportive board — all making the FrontLines 2015 project a success."

The Airport TRAX Line, a 6-mile light rail extension, currently under construction, will connect to downtown Salt Lake City.
The Airport TRAX Line, a 6-mile light rail extension, currently under construction, will connect to downtown Salt Lake City.
Fully integrated team

Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), as UTA's program manager, teamed with the agency to develop a management plan for the Frontlines 2015 Program that put cooperation and coordination with all stakeholders as a primary goal.

The project delivery method for the 2015 program includes both design-build (D/B) and construction management/general contractor (CM/GC) contracts to accelerate the entire process.

"The designers and contractors selected for the program were chosen using a best-value process rather than a low-bid process," explains Kevin Cox, Frontlines program manager for PB. "This approach allowed the UTA/PB program management team to select firms that were committed to partnering on all aspects of the program."

The result was a fully integrated project team comprising owner/designer/contractor components able to capitalize on the group synergy for improved communications, daily operations, decision-making and solutions — including timely responses to design changes/modifications and contractor scheduling issues inherent in the DB and CM/GC process.

"We believe the best value selection process allows us to select design and construction partners who share our vision for the projects and our commitment to the community to build them right," Allegra says. "The design and construction firms that are working with UTA on this program are true partners with us and the communities we serve in meeting our goals for this program."

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