SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Many TRAX trains are set to be replaced after the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) was awarded $60 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation last week.
The money comes from the Rail Vehicle Replacement program established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. The program makes funding available to transit companies to replace or renovate aging rail cars.
On Friday, May 5, the Federal Transit Administration awarded over $700 million to six different projects in six states. UTA’s Light Rail Vehicle Replacement Project was one of those six programs to receive a portion of the grant.
Overall, UTA received $60 million, which it says it will use to help buy 20 new rail cars to replace older cars. According to UTA, it will need $240 million to fully replace all 40 light rail vehicles in its fleet, meaning the federal grant is a helpful dent in the overall cost.
UTA said cars with high floorings — such as its original light rail cars — are a priority to be replaced. These cars had three steep elevated steps to get from the platform to the seating area or walk up a switchback ramp. These inconveniences made it difficult and posed safety issues for passengers, especially those with accessibility needs.
“Many UTA Light Rail system riders come from disadvantaged populations with higher accessibility needs,” UTA said in a statement. “With Salt Lake City being considered for the 2030 or 2034 Olympic Games, safety and accessibility of the city’s light rail is a top priority.”
It would reportedly be cheaper to simply replace the older cars rather than renovate them. UTA said replacing the cars would ensure the TRAX system stays viable for another 25 years while improving safety and accessibility.
Chair of UTA’s Board of Trustees Calrton Christensen said the public transit company was delighted they were chosen for the grant.
“We are extremely appreciative of Utah’s Congressional Delegation leaders and to the FTA for their strong support for this critical transit project and for important infrastructure investments in Utah,” said Christensen.
As UTA continues to make its transit system “Olympics Ready” it will continue to find ways to match funds, as well as utilize state, local, and federal funds to upgrade its services.