Life in the Valley Magazine

 

Transportation

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Salt Lake International Airport
Planes line up for takeoff at the Salt Lake International Airport
I
In the early 1900s Utahns had built such an expansive web of interurban railroads (read
‘light rail’) that it was possible to ride from the southern half of Utah County all the way to Logan at the very northern end of the State, a distance of more than 150 miles, entirely on interurbans. With the popularization of motor vehicles and the improvement of roads the interurbans failed in Utah as they did almost everywhere else. But they did expose Utah’s geography and its population patterns for what they are; crowded into a north-south corridor that is hemmed in by the Great Salt Lake on the west and the Wasatch Mountain Range on the east. In others word, the Wasatch Front is well-suited for mass transit.

Almost 100 years later Utahns are rediscovering their mass transit heritage. The light rail system built in advance of the 2002 Olympics, called TRAX, has found a growing legion of regular riders and extensions are planned to the airport, and the West and South Valley areas. Right now work is well underway on FrontRunner, a heavy rail commuter train that will begin service in late 2008 from Pleasant View in Weber County to the Salt Lake City center, some 44 miles. Long term plans call for FrontRunner to extend as far as Brigham City on the north to Payson on the south, a total distance of 175 miles.

While Trax and FrontRunner can both be counted on to remove several lanes of commuter traffic from the freeway system, population growth in Northern Utah will also necessitate improvements to the highway system. Even now the movement of goods in Utah is $100 million a year industry. Utah’s leaders have anticipated these infrastructural needs, so in coming years major transportation improvements are planned for the “Crossroads of the West.”

Mass Transit

The private Utah Transit Authority (UTA) offers convenient public transportation along most of the Wasatch Front. With a 1,400 square mile service area spanning six counties, UTA provides public transit to nearly 80 percent of Utah’s population and most of the state’s largest communities. Services provided by UTA include TRAX light rail in Salt Lake County, an inter-county fixed-route bus system, and Flextrans, the agency’s paratransit operation that provides curb-to-curb transportation for riders with disabilities. UTA busses are by far the most convenient and ecological route to local ski areas during the winter months and UTA also offers a comprehensive Rideshare program featuring more than 380 vanpools.

Each weekday, an average of 133,000 people use UTA’s fixed route bus service and TRAX light rail system, an increase of 9 percent from 2005 to 2006.

Light rail, commuter rail and bus service are part of a balanced transportation approach to address problems associated with growth and traffic congestion along the Wasatch Front.

TRAX
TRAX light rail has plans of expansion in the near future

International Airport

Salt Lake City International Airport is within 2.5 hours from half of the nation’s population, making the ‘Crossroads of the West’ moniker especially appropriate when referring to air travel. The airport—situated just 10 minutes west of Salt Lake City’s central business district—serves about 21.5 million passengers annually and ranks as the 25th busiest airport in the nation and the 50th busiest in the world.

The easy to access facility consists of two terminals, five concourses and approximately 80 gates. Wireless Internet service is available throughout the airport.

American, Atlantic Southeast, Continental, Continental Express, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Mesa, Northwest, Shuttle America, SkyWest, Southwest, United Airlines, United Express, US Airways Express, and US Airways operate more than 800 scheduled daily flights to about 100 nonstop destinations. All told, some 73,000 airline seats are available through Salt Lake City. In 2005 Salt Lake City International was ranked first in the nation for on-time departures and second for on-time arrivals by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The airport has long enjoyed a top ten customer service ranking from JD Powers and Associates.

Salt Lake City is Delta Air Lines’ second largest hub, and along with commuter partners, SkyWest, Atlantic Southeast Airlines, and Shuttle America, it operates 576 scheduled daily departures. From February 2006 to February 2007 the airport’s international flights increased some 38 percent, a reflection of Delta’s

addition of service from Salt Lake City to nine cities in Canada and Mexico, including Toronto, Mexico City and Guadalajara.

To meet burgeoning demand, future expansion plans call for the extension of one runway, the realignment of another and the addition of fourth parallel runway. The airport authority also intends to build a new terminal and two new concourses. Plans call for a single terminal with an attached concourse consisting of 31 mainline gates and an additional satellite concourse consisting of 15 mainline gates and 44 regional jet gates. The two concourses would be connected by an underground automated train. The existing terminal and concourses would be demolished, leaving room for additional expansion in the future. Other plans call for a new parking garage, expanded cargo facilities, and a TRAX light rail line to downtown.

Interstate Highways

Utah’s transportation system includes 40,707 miles of federal, state, and local highways and roads, including three Interstate highways… I-80 (east to New York City/west to San Francisco), I-15 (north to Canada / south to Mexico) and I-70 (east through Denver to the Baltimore area)… and are vital to the efficient movement of goods and materials throughout the intermountain region. I-80 and I-15 converge in Salt Lake, allowing convenient access to the Wasatch Front and points beyond. The I-215 belt route offers expanded access along the eastern and western perimeters of the valley.

The 14-mile Legacy Parkway, a relief valve for congested traffic in Davis and Salt Lake County, connects I-15 in Farmington with the I-215 beltway in North Salt Lake and is about 40 percent complete. Because of its proximity to the wetlands of the Great Salt Lake, in building Legacy Parkway, the Utah Department of Transportation has been especially sensitive to environmental concerns. Features include native species landscaping, an expansive nature preserve, and a parallel multi-use trail for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians that will run the full-length of the Legacy Parkway. The target completion date is Fall 2008.

Railways

On May 10, 1869, the Golden Spike was driven at Promontory Summit, Utah, linking by rail the east with the west. Today, about 1,700 miles of railroad track in Utah stretch from Iron County in the southwest, Grand County in the southeast, Tooele County on the west and Box Elder and Cache Counties on the North. They converge in the Salt Lake-Ogden area. Because of its central location, Utah is an excellent interline switching route for West Coast shipments and for Eastern and Midwestern terminals. The merged Southern Pacific and Union Pacific provide freight service in and through Utah. Amtrak trains… which arrive at and depart from Salt Lake City’s new Intermodal Transportation Center… provide daily passenger service to and from points throughout the United States.

Air Freight

Air freight service in the Salt Lake area puts shippers within hours of any point in the nation. More than 15 cargo carriers handle more than 384 million pounds of air cargo and airmail. Growth in cargo activity at Salt Lake International Airport has necessitated the development of a new cargo area, which is located north of the terminals.

Motor Freight

Trade, transportation, and utilities employ nearly 225,000 people in Utah. There are
more than 2,300 registered interstate and intrastate motor freight carriers with operations in the state. Daily direct service from Utah’s metropolitan areas to all major cities in the continental U.S. and Canada is available through these carriers. Delivery times to all
the western States is only two days away while cities as far east as Cincinnati are about three days distant.

Customs Port of Entry

Salt Lake City is a full-service customs port city, making it a regional center for warehousing and distribution. Goods that enter under bond may be stored in customs-bonded facilities for up to five years without payment of customs duty. Should goods be exported during this period, then no duty is paid.  

Salt Lake City International Airport has the capacity to handle more than 200 arriving international passengers per hour.