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GOP Senator Proposes Bill To Study, Upgrade Utah Transit System

Aerial view of St. George, Utah.
A high-speed train from Salt Lake City to St. George could become a reality under a bill introduced Monday by Utah Sen. Jake Anderegg.

High-speed trains from Salt Lake to Provo, Ogden and Zion National Park? It could be a reality under a Republican-sponsored bill at the Utah Legislature.

Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, introduced the bill Monday, which would require the Utah Department of Transportation, or UDOT, to develop a “statewide comprehensive rail plan,” which he says is aimed at improving transit access, frequency and reliability.

“Ridership will never go where it needs to go without those things,” he said.

While Anderegg called a statewide high-speed rail network a “pie-in-the-sky idea,” he wouldn’t rule it out, either.

“Why not have an express line that goes all the way down to Arches, Moab, Canyonlands? You can go from an international airport down to Zion [National Park]. You can go from an international airport up to the ski resorts” and eventually, maybe even to other states like California and Colorado, he said.

Anderegg said he has spent five years working on the bill and is working with UDOT, the Utah Transit Authority and the executive director of the Utah Inland Port to “update” Utah’s rail system and integrate it with the inland port, which is still in the planning stages.

Anderegg acknowledged that his plan could take several decades and cost billions of dollars.

But the Lehi Republican said he hopes faster, more reliable transit will help get people out of cars.

“My hope is that we move more toward a European model” with electric trains and double- or triple-tracked sections of line to allow more frequent trains, he said. Gov. Gary Hebert has asked the Legislature for $34 million to double-track sections of the Frontrunner commuter rail.

Anderegg said the Frontrunner locomotives are old, which means they produce dirty emissions and take too long to reach high speeds. “They can go 180 miles an hour. They just can’t go 180 miles an hour on our track,” he said.

He said any new trains would have to be faster than a freeway trip, or people will not take transit.

“If we can’t go from Provo to Salt Lake City — or, I should say to the international airport — in 30 to 35 minutes, we’re missing the point,” he said. “If you don’t have those type of delivery times, your ridership will always be stagnant.”

Nicole Nixon covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @_Nixo

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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