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Will the new TRAX station solve an unprecedented problem for Salt Lake City International Airport?


Trains come and go as officials gather to celebrate the Utah Transit Authority’s TRAX Airport Station, marking the culmination of 20 months of construction extending TRAX to the new airport terminal in Salt Lake City Monday. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY – Earlier this month, during the Utah school system’s fall recess, staff at Salt Lake International Airport encountered an issue they had not addressed since the the new airport terminal opened last year.

All airport parking lots have been taken. Its parking lot was completely full because of nearly 30,000 travelers coming to catch the plane elsewhere.

“It is a bit disturbing because it means that it is quite likely that there were people driving to the airport, bags in the trunk, tickets in hand, who could not find a place. to park, ”said Bill Wyatt, manager of Salt Lake City. International airport.

While he maintains that airport executives like him will work on parking management in the future, he used this recent example to emphasize the importance of another solution: public transit. In particular, a new tram station.

On Monday, Wyatt, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and leaders of the Utah Transit Authority welcomed the opening of the new TRAX station at Salt Lake City Airport. They did this by boarding a special Green Line tram that arrived just outside the main terminal at the airport. The train was supposed to pierce a specially designed banner to symbolize an inauguration ceremony, but high winds tore the banner to shreds before the train arrived.

Time could not stop the celebration; it marked the end of 20 months of construction that were delayed due to economic and pandemic issues. City, airport and UTA leaders say the station will be a convenient alternative to driving to the airport, much like the old airport station did for the old one. Salt Lake City airport.

“It’s an exciting day for us,” Mendenhall said. “The way we move people matters. The way you move when you go on a business trip, when you take your family on vacation, and how you see and experience this place has so much to do with the beginning and the end. the end of your commute from home, and the opening of this TRAX (station) is changing the fabric of the experience of Salt Lake City and all of Utah today.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Carlton Christensen, chairman of the board of the Utah Transit Authority, and Bill Wyatt, executive director of <a class=Salt Lake City International Airport, and other officials alight from a train as they gather to celebrate the new UTA TRAX Airport Station, marking the culmination of 20 months of construction extending TRAX to the new airport terminal, in Salt Lake City on Monday, October 25, 2021.”/>
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Carlton Christensen, chairman of the board of the Utah Transit Authority, and Bill Wyatt, executive director of Salt Lake City International Airport, and other officials alight from a train as they gather to celebrate the new UTA TRAX Airport Station, marking the culmination of 20 months of construction extending TRAX to the new airport terminal in Salt Lake City on Monday, October 25, 2021 (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Kaitlin Eskelson, president of Visit Salt Lake, said the resort is not only exciting for Utahns heading to the airport for travel. She said the resort’s “ease of access” is one of its main selling points for people coming to Salt Lake City for travel. It only takes 20 minutes to get from the airport train station to the City Creek Center station in downtown Salt Lake City.

Visits to Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, heavily driven by people entering the state from the airport, play a key role in Utah’s tourism economy. In 2019, before COVID-19, tourism brought in more than $ 10 billion. Salt Lake County accounted for almost half of business and leisure visits.

As the Salt Lake City airport begins to move closer to pre-COVID-19 passenger numbers – levels that fill its parking lot – and business conventions slowly return to downtown Salt Lake City, Eskelson is optimistic that tourism spending numbers will return to normal soon. This is facilitated by the presence of a light rail station just outside the airport which can take people directly into the city. From there, those looking to get to Utah ski resorts can use other UTA services or other means of transportation.

“(Less minutes) they can spend getting to or from the airport, they can spend more time on the runways and more time in our communities,” she said.

Nancy Volmer, spokesperson for the airport, added that the train station and the normal green line service are also invaluable for the nearly thousands of employees who travel to and from the airport just for work.

The airport’s first station opened in April 2013 as part of an extension of what was then the new green TRAX line connecting Salt Lake City International Airport to West Valley City, passing through the center. -City of Salt Lake City. Carlton Christensen, chairman of the UTA board, said there have been 2.7 million trips to the airport since the line opened.

The Green Line has connection points to the Red Line, which goes to the University of Utah and the Daybreak District in southern Jordan, and the Blue Line, which connects downtown Salt Lake City to Drape. There is also a connection point with UTA’s FrontRunner, which is a commuter train service that connects Ogden to Provo. All of this is in addition to the many bus stations that connect several other routes through Salt Lake County.

Construction on the new airport station began in March 2020. Christensen said the line was extended by 1,500 feet. The whole project cost $ 22 million, which was obtained through local funding.


Hopefully we’ll see a slight uptick now that people know it’ll be a little more convenient – or maybe a lot more convenient – just to jump on the green line and hike it all the way here.

–Carl Arky, Utah Transit Authority spokesperson


The new airport station itself may seem familiar to those who used TRAX to get to the old airport. That’s because materials from the old station have been moved to the new location, according to UTA spokesperson Carl Arky. He said recycling the items saved both time and money. The project was originally slated for completion in July, but COVID-19 issues and concrete supply shortages delayed the project for a few more months.

Until Monday, passengers could take the green TRAX line to the airport, but had to take a bus to the terminal. The bus also took passengers from the terminal to the green line; however, the process has resulted in delays ranging from a few minutes to an hour in some cases.

It is not clear whether these delays resulted in a drop in ridership on the Green Line. UTA has seen a massive drop in ridership system-wide since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit Utah in mid-March 2020. While ridership is still significantly lower at pre-pandemic levels, the agency reported an increase in ridership during recent times.

UTA reports that it made an average of 33,704 weekday boardings in September, up 54% from the previous September, but still 45% below the September 2019 averages. In addition, the agency continues report new post-pandemic monthly records. September 2021 also marked the first time UTA has returned to 30,000 or more runners on weekdays since April 2020.

“Hopefully we’ll see a slight uptick now that people know it will be a little more convenient – or maybe a lot more convenient – just to jump on the green line and hike it this far,” Arky said. . “It just takes time.”

Carlton Christensen, chairman of the board of the Utah Transit Authority, speaks as officials gather to celebrate the new TRAX airport station, marking the culmination of 20 months of construction extending TRAX to the new airport terminal, in Salt <a class=Lake City on Monday, October 25, 2021.”/>
Carlton Christensen, chairman of the board of the Utah Transit Authority, speaks as officials gather to celebrate the new TRAX airport station, marking the culmination of 20 months of construction extending TRAX to the new airport terminal, in Salt Lake City on Monday, October 25, 2021 (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

As ridership continues to increase, UTA is looking for ways to help it grow further. Christensen said UTA will extend Sunday service at the airport from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. starting December 12. This is a return to the hours of service that existed before the pandemic.

He added that the agency was also preparing to launch an incentive that will allow travelers with a “current day” boarding pass to travel for free on TRAX in an effort to encourage people to use the service.

Meanwhile, Arky said he thinks it is “critical” that the project be completed before the next vacation travel season and as air travel increases.

“This airport is already attracting more and more traffic. So I think more and more people are going out and starting to travel again and we are getting closer to vacations, and Salt Lake City and the metro area continues to grow organically as we go. and as we go, I think every mode of transportation we can offer that offers a better solution… wouldn’t be fast enough, ”he said.“ It’s great that we have done this now. We have seen nothing but continued growth and continued use of the airport. “

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Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion