Provo city council members approved lease and interlocal agreements with UTA in a 5-2 vote Tuesday evening, which means there will be some dedicated lanes for bus rapid transit through Provo.
The two agreements were on the Provo council’s agenda last week, but council members delayed the vote — hours into a discussion on the subject — after some said they hadn’t had enough time to look over changes in the documents.
The lease agreement with Provo covers city-owned land that will be used for stations and dedicated lanes for BRT — TRAX on wheels. It covers a 1-mile stretch of the route for dedicated lanes the city; there will be 6.9 miles of BRT in Provo, and the total project is 10.5 miles. The rest of the leases needed in Provo are for UDOT-owned property. The route will start on University Avenue at the Provo FrontRunner station, then turn on 700 North, go across 700 East over to 900 North and then up onto 900 East to University Parkway into Orem, to Utah Valley University and ending at the Orem FrontRunner station.
“This is going to be a project that will benefit the Provo community in perpetuity,” said Councilman Dave Harding. “It is establishing a backbone for our transit system. … It allows us to diversity our transportation system to give people options.”
[pullquote]”This is going to be a project that will benefit the Provo community in perpetuity. It is establishing a backbone for our transit system. … It allows us to diversity our transportation system to give people options.” —Dave Harding, Provo councilman[/pullquote]
Councilman Kay Van Buren, who voted against the agreements, said he had concerns over the amount transit systems are subsidized by tax dollars as well as how it will effect the city as a whole and University Avenue and 700 North. Councilman George Stewart, who cast the second no vote, opposes the project because it’s a divisive issue, thinks it should be on the ballot.
There was a referendum effort to get BRT on the ballot in 2016 countywide; that failed. On Tuesday night, members of the Provo council again questioned whether a BRT question could be on a ballot.
Provo council attorney Brian Jones says he doesn’t think so. Current state law wouldn’t allow the council to put it on the ballot. Citizens likely couldn’t either because the city council hasn’t made a new law by approving a route for BRT or by approving the lease and interlocal agreements — those are an exercise of administrative power.
Orem also approved its lease and interlocal agreements with UTA for the project on Tuesday, unanimously. Its lease covers less than 1/2 mile on 400 West for a dedicated lane. The rest of the dedicated lanes in Orem are on state roads.
Two years ago, after many debates and another study, the Provo council voted 7-0 on a route for BRT through the city. Since then, UTA won a $75 million federal grant, spent about $4 million, designed the stops and picked contractors. Construction is scheduled to start this summer.
In addition to the $75 million grant, Utah County is pitching in a $65 million bond, which UTA will repay to Utah County after 12 years — principle and interest — using UTA’s 1/4 cent sales tax, Wayne Parker, Provo’s chief administrative officer has said. The $65 million is coming from a sales tax revenue bond. And there’s another $10 million local cost for the project, which is in the form of lease agreements from the Utah Department of Transportation, Orem and Provo.