SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The Utah Authority Transit celebrated 15 years of FrontRunner on Wednesday, April 26.

The FrontRunner railway system currently serves an 83-mile-long corridor, consisting of 16 stations in several counties between Ogden and Provo. According to UTA, FrontRunner uses diesel-powered push/pull locomotives and can reach up to 79 miles per hour.

In 2022, the FrontRunner system had a total of 3,168,300 riders and more than 12,000 passengers on average on a weekday. The total ridership for all 15 years of service from May 1, 2008, to March 31, 2023, is 48,431,725.

“FrontRunner’s heritage has always revolved around people,” said UTA Executive Director Jay Fox. “Brigham Young’s focus was on the needs of his people and their access to transit. Our focus today is on the people FrontRunner has served and will serve for decades to come. And I want to recognize the people that drive FrontRunner’s success, literally and figuratively: the transit professionals of UTA. I celebrate them today, along with the future of FrontRunner with our partners at UDOT and the great State of Utah.”

Brigham Young approved a railroad line from Salt Lake City to Ogden in 1870, and this approval allowed for the greater expansion of the railroad system and transit system that Utah has today.

FrontRunner was launched in 2008 with the support of former Gov. Gary Herbert, according to the press release from UTA. Back in 2002, UTA secured 175 miles of railroad Right-of-Way from Union Pacific Railroad, meaning that UTA can operate on its own tracks rather than sharing them with others.

A portion of the railroad FrontRunner trains are using right now was previously used by the Utah Central Railroad, which was reportedly established in 1870, and approved by Brigham Young, to connect the first transcontinental railroad with Salt Lake City. The Utah Central Railroad was eventually acquired by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1878.

Seven stations along the FrontRunner North corridor opened for the first time on April 26, 2008. Another eight stations opened on Dec. 10, 2012, along the FrontRunner South route from Salt Lake City to Provo.

“FrontRunner’s history is a history of courageous investment in Utah’s future,” said Carlton Christensen, Chair of the UTA Board of Trustees. “FrontRunner has become the backbone of UTA’s system throughout the Wasatch Front, helping elevate Utah’s quality of life by increasing
access to education and economic opportunity, decreasing dependence on personal vehicles, all while reducing traffic congestion and clearing the air we breathe.”

UTA is looking to extend its FrontRunner service to over 135 miles in the future, hoping to provide services as far north as Brigham City and as far south as Payson.

The public transit agency also received $316 million from the Biden administration this year to support their double-tracking project. A double-track railway involves two tracks running in alternating directions, as opposed to a single-track railway where trains in both directions share the same track. The Utah State Legislature approved a $300 million fund for the project back in 2021.

FrontRunner trains currently run Monday through Saturday. A one-way base fare for the FrontRunner costs $2.50 for adults and $1.25 for seniors and students. Travelers can purchase a fare pass through the Transit App or on UTA’s website.