By mid-August, Utah Valley Express buses will be rolling through Provo and Orem. They’ll arrive at stops every six minutes during peak times. And stop every 10 minutes in off-peak hours. But they won’t be using most of the platforms or driving down the center lanes. That’s because construction on University Parkway and University Avenue won’t be complete until October or November.
What will be complete by the projected start date — Aug. 13 — is construction on 700 North and some of the other platforms along the route, said Janelle Robertson, UTA project manager. Instead of using center lanes and platforms, the buses will be using the existing local stops along the route. The service will run between the Orem Frontrunner station and the East Bay area in Provo. The new buses make more frequent stops and eventually will have some dedicated lanes and platform stops on the route.
There are a few reasons for the construction delays on the project, she said. First, there aren’t enough construction workers. “The Tech Corridor is taking our utility sub-consultants away. It’s delayed us some.”
Crews also discovered issues with utilities, she said. A lot of the utilities on University Avenue weren’t where they thought they were. So crews are reworking the utilities so they can widen the road.
Though most of the route won’t be ready, UTA decided to start the enhanced service next month because of a commitment to UVU and BYU. The schools are paying $1 million per year for UTA passes for students, and employees and their families. And UTA officials committed that the service would be operating when school started.
Then as crews complete more pieces of the project, they’ll open those areas. “We’re phasing this in as we go along,” she said.
Crews will finish work on University Parkway “hopefully by October.” And then they’ll finish University Avenue after that, Robertson said. Once it’s all done, UTA will have an official grand opening.
And by the time it’s open, residents might be able to ride for free. Orem Mayor Richard Brunst said there may be federal funding available to make the service free for three years. The money is earmarked for congestion mitigation and air quality improvement.