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Ogden, WSU desire streetcar

Back in August, The Signpost reported that Ogden City had shelved a proposed mass transit project that would connect the FrontRunner, Ogden, McKay-Dee Hospital and the Dee Events Center to the heart of the Weber State University Ogden campus. Ogden City has now reopened the proposal, and WSU students might get a streetcar to campus after all.

The original proposal, which dates back to as early as 2005, was the brainchild of former Mayor Matthew Godfrey. In time, his original idea of a ski-lift-esque gondola system was replaced by other options deemed more cost-efficient and more effective, with the favored option being a streetcar rail line.

Last August, the Project Steering Committee, consisting of representatives from Ogden City, WSU, McKay-Dee Hospital, UTA and others announced they were putting a hold on the project pending some fact-finding by Ogden City Council. Now it appears that many of the city council’s questions have been answered and excitement is building again for the Mass Transit Project, said Greg Scott, who is a transportation planner for the Wasatch Front Regional Council.

“In August, the city council hired a consultant for a review of the streetcar proposal and of a 24th St. routing option favored by some on the city council,” Scott said. “That consultant has come back with a report that was met with enthusiasm by many on the city council. The report validated the viability of the project and outlined the steps that can be taken to pursue the 24th St. option.”

Scott went on to say that, although progress is now being made, there are obstacles that must be mounted. The route the streetcar would take has been a topic of debate, as has the issue of funding. It remains to be seen where newly appointed Mayor Mike Caldwell stands on the issue.

“It looks like it will continue to move forward,” Scott said. “Right now, it’s probably moving forward very slowly, the next steps being allowing the mayor to become more familiar with the proposals and the project partners beginning to take the actions that the consultant suggested.”

If the project moves forward, it would provide tremendous benefits to WSU and its students, said Norm Tarbox, vice president of administrative services at WSU.

According to Tarbox, WSU has been an enthusiastic sponsor of the streetcar project since its beginnings, and sees it as a powerful investment for the future growth of the campus.

“The first thing is it provides students, faculty and staff with a very robust network of public transportation options to get to school or to work,” Tarbox said. “Those are all real positive things for the university.”

In addition to providing a hard connection to UTA, the streetcar’s proposed route would take it straight through the heart of campus, with stops at the Browning Center, the new student housing complex and the Dee Events Center.

“It’s the kind of transit solution that can transform an institution,” Tarbox said. “This is an important enough development for the university that we’re willing to make fairly major changes to our campus master plan to accommodate the route through campus.”

WSU students like sophomore Emily Prince also hope to ride the rails to campus.

“The bus is always over-packed and slow, which makes me late for my first class almost every day, and on the way back I sometimes have to wait for over an hour for a bus,” Prince said. “And don’t get me started on the headaches I get from the bus!”

Jordan Mendle of Layton drives to school, but said he would be willing to take the streetcar if he could.

“I tried the bus, but it’s too much of a hassle. If I could just take FrontRunner and then hop on the rails to the middle of campus, it would be a breeze.”

As more action is taken and the project rolls forward, students will be able to voice their opinions on the proposal at open houses and public hearings. In the meantime, students are invited to write to the Ogden mayor and city council, or the mayors of the cities they live in, as the project will eventually go before a council of mayors for approval.

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