The West Valley TRAX is a 5.1 mile extension through the City of West Valley. It is a part of the TRAX (short for Transit Express) Green Line that connects Salt Lake City International Airport to West Valley City, Utah. The West Valley Extension connects residential, entertainment, and commercial areas in the City of West Valley to this network.
Project Type:New Line Project Mode:Light Rail Average Weekday Riders:3,851 Length (mi):5.10
Economic Distress:0.58 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):1331 Population Growth Rate (%):1.90
Employment Growth Rate (%):3.10 Market Size:1,256,984 Airport Travel Distance:8.2 Topography:21
Region:Rocky Mountain / Far West State:UT County:Salt Lake County
City:West Valley City Urban/Class Level:Metro Local Area:City N/A
Impact Area:Local Area Transportation System:N/A GIS Lat/Long:40.711119 / -111.939392
Initial Study Date:2007 Post Constr. Study Date:2016
Constr. Start Date:2008 Constr. End Date:2011
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 2011 Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):390,000,000 Actual Cost (curr $):402,750,000
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||0.73||0.60||1.33|
|Output (in $M's)||2.38||1.27||3.65|
The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) West Valley light rail project is a new line constructed for the TRAX (short for Transit Express) Green Line that connects West Valley City, Utah to downtown Salt Lake City, and continues to the Salt Lake City International Airport. TRAX is a light rail system in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, serving Salt Lake City and many of its suburbs throughout Salt Lake County. The light rail system is operated by UTA, and all lines are electric, receiving power from overhead trolley wires.
The construction of the West Valley light rail line began in June 2008. This new line project included three new bridges, four stations and one intermodal hub (West Valley Central). After three years of construction, it opened for service in August 2011 (the extension to the airport opening in 2013), a full year ahead of schedule, at the cost of approximately $402,750,000 (in 2013 dollars). The primary motivation behind the project was to provide a variety of transportation options for West Valley City, Utah's second largest municipality and one of the state’s fastest growing areas, as well as increased connectivity to Salt Lake City and the surrounding area for West Valley residents. The creation of a solid and diverse network of transportation options was intended in part to positively impact the economic development of the area and was pursued in conjunction with transit-oriented development in downtown West Valley City. This project is attributed with creating an estimated 25 jobs in the area, primarily in real estate, retail, and the area’s new, full-service hotel.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
UTA's Frontline West Valley light rail is a 5.1-mile new line which operates as part of the TRAX Green line. The Frontline 2015 program was a package of projects that together added 45 miles of commuter rail and 35 miles of light rail to the Salt Lake City area. These projects were delivered using a variety of methods, and are part of the overall UTA goal of having every resident along the Wasatch Front within one mile of a major transit stop by 2030.
The project alignment was construction in both a dedicated corridor and within city streets, passing through commercial areas and residential neighborhoods. It provides connection between West Valley's residential, shopping, work, and entertainment venues with the University of Utah, Sandy, downtown Salt Lake City, and the Salt Lake City International Airport (opened in 2013). The West Valley light rail line project also included three bridge projects where it intersects with Interstate 15, Union Pacific (UP) Railroad’s Roper Yard and Jordan River, and where it extends to the West Valley City center. The TRAX system combines independent operation adjacent to the existing Union Pacific Railroad tracks for most of the line, with shared operation on UP tracks for a small part of the line.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
Salt Lake City
During the 19th century, the nearby Bingham Canyon Mine (the world's largest open-pit mine) provided a strong source of income for the surrounding county. Since then, the economy of Salt Lake County, Utah is primarily service-oriented and has evolved towards industries associated with call centers and seasonal tourism. The 2002 Olympic Winter Games provided a significant boost to the area's economy.
The West Valley light rail line project is located primarily in West Valley City, but this line connects to the transit system through Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City, known as the "Crossroads of the West,” has the largest banking center in the census-defined western United States. Salt Lake City is mostly equidistant to big cities like Portland, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Phoenix. As a result, Interstate 15 serves large freight volumes, while many regional manufacturing and distribution centers, such as Dannon Yogurt and Sysco are in the area.
In 2016 industries associated with trade, transportation, and utilities accounted for 20% of all employment in Salt Lake City. Delta Air Lines is the largest employer in the city with a regional hub located at the Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). Companies associated with professional and business services accounted for 17.6% of employment, with government services accounting for 15% of employment. Health and educational services represented 11.5% of employment, with the Sinclair Oil Corporation, University of Utah, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the major employers. Leisure and hospitality services comprised 8% of total employment.
West Valley City
West Valley City, considered a suburb of Salt Lake City, is the second-largest city in the state of Utah. On May 19, 2011, the city revealed an official plan to create a downtown area til 2021. These plans relied heavily on transit-oriented development (TOD) and were among the first in the state to outline a robust TOD plan. The development occurred in conjunction with the planning of the West Valley light rail line and focused on both creating a downtown area and increasing connectivity to all area transit lines and downtown Salt Lake City. The downtown plans originally included an eight-story Embassy Suites Hotel, a plaza, a civic center, and residential development. The downtown area included plans for a West Valley Central light rail transit station (the terminus of the TRAX Green Line) and a MAX rapid bus line. Although creating a downtown has been a goal for the city since its first General Plan in 1984, comprehensive plans for the creation of a downtown area were not developed until the Vision 2020 General Plan update in 2004. Enhancing transit and transportation options were major goals of this plan; the West Valley Light Rail Line and implementation of the plans for a city center were pursued in tandem. The Valley Fair Mall and the Maverik Center are located nearby, as is I-215. Most of the downtown development is concentrated in Fairbourne Station, a mixed-use development that includes retail and office space, as well as residential living space and a full-service hotel. This development is anchored by the West Valley courthouse, city hall, police headquarters, library and a civic center; it is also adjacent to the West Valley Central light rail station. As of 2017, the development is ongoing. The TRAX station was opened in 2011 and the Embassy Suites Hotel in 2012. Phase II of the residential development is underway, which includes the redevelopment of an existing development and its incorporation into Fairbourne Station. Phase II also includes plans for additional development associated with the Fairbourne Station Master Plan and the completion of Promenade Park.
Between 2007 and 2016, the total population of West Valley City increased from 122,409 to 133,660 (+9%). Over this same period, the total population of Salt Lake County increased from 987,913 to 1,121,354 (+14%), and the total population of Utah increased from 2,576,626 to 3,051,217 (+17%). The change in employment and income per capita across these groups exhibited a different pattern, with West Valley City increasing by less than both Salt Lake County and the state of Utah. The employment in West Valley City increased from 60,595 to 62,663 (3%) from 2007 to 2016, while the employment over this period in Salt Lake County increased from 761,758 to 844,316 (+11%), and the employment in the state of Utah increased from 1,310,044 to 1,430,866 (+9%). The change in per capita income over this period followed this same pattern; the increase in per capita income for West Valley City was less than both Salt Lake County and the state of Utah. West Valley City increased from $17,359 to $17,823 (+3%), Salt Lake County increasing from $37,584 to $44,692 (+19%), and Utah increasing from $32,965 to $40,744 (+24%).
In 2016, the top three principal employers for the city of West Valley were Discover Financial Services (7% of employment), Central Refrigerated Services (2.6% of employment) and United Parcel Service (2.3% of employment). In 2007, Walmart was one of the top three employers in addition to Discover Financials and UPS, but as new employers entered the market and added more than 5,000 jobs, Walmart shifted to seventh place. A 2015 update to West Valley City’s General Plan indicated that the key industries in West Valley City are trade, transportation, and utilities (29% of employment), financial activities (14.5% of employment), and business and professional services (14.4% of employment).
As cities in the Wasatch Front metropolitan area—such as Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Provo—grew, and the population started to spread out to the north and south, the mobility demands became a challenge for the region. To accommodate this growth, UTA launched its Frontline program to expand the existing TRAX system. The new 5.1-mile West Valley light rail line, part of the Frontline program, connected West Valley City to Salt Lake City and the University of Utah. This new line project included three new bridges, four stations and one intermodal hub (West Valley Central). After three years of construction, it opened for service in August 2011, a full year ahead of schedule.
The primary motivations of the project were boosting economic development in West Valley City and providing transportation choices for residents. The creation of a solid and diverse network of transportation options was pursued in conjunction with transit-oriented development in downtown West Valley City. The extension of the TRAX line to the city was part of the plans to develop downtown West Valley and to provide a solid transit network to address congestion and health concerns related to “winter inversion,” where air pollution becomes trapped at ground level and can cause health problems. In West Valley City, there are a total of 58 apartments which are considered low income, 18 of which include rental assistance, and many residents are considered transit-dependent. The Frontline West Valley light rail provides more options for affordable access to destinations in Salt Lake City for these groups. Compass Court Townhomes, which includes 40 low-income apartments, is within 1.5 miles of the West Valley Central Light Rail Station.
Information gathered from interviews indicated that UTA built the TRAX line as a precaution and in anticipation of projected traffic congestion in Salt Lake City and its suburban areas. Studies by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute show that the travel time index between Salt Lake City and West Valley City, Utah, a measure of congestion, has increased steadily from 1.07 in 1990 to 1.14 in 2000, and to 1.18 in 2014. These increases indicate that a trip during peak traffic periods takes on average 18% longer to complete than during free flow conditions. Continued population and employment growth within the region is expected to contribute to further rises in congestion.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
The West Valley light rail line connects West Valley City to Salt Lake City, passing through four transit stations and one connecting transit hub. The new line was later assigned as the TRAX Green line, starting at the West Valley Central Intermodal station and ending at the Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). TRAX and fixed-schedule buses provide transit options at the West Valley Central station.
Following the first year of operation, ridership on this section of the Green line was less than what was projected for the year 2015, but the UTA emphasized that this line opened for service one year earlier than originally planned. Although expected ridership growth on the west side of Salt Lake Valley did not happen fast, by 2016 the ridership for the TRAX system was more than 64,000 daily weekday trips which, according to UTA, met original projections. The West Valley Line alone had an average weekday boarding of 3,851 in 2016. Ridership for the West Valley line is projected to reach 12,000 daily users by 2025.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
The West Valley city was incorporated in 1980, but it did not have a traditional city center until the city hall was completed in 1990, which was intended to serve as an anchor for a city center. However, the land use scenario for the city center was not developed until the Vision 2020 General Plan (adopted in 2004) which also included enhancing transit and transportation options as a primary goal. The revitalization of West Valley and development of the city center began with the revitalization of Valley Fair Mall in 2006. Portions of the development of this city center, particularly parts of the Fairbourne Station development, are still ongoing. The addition of the Green line, in conjunction with updated zoning practices and market development strategies, and an overall push for transit oriented development, has been a catalyst for additional development in West Valley City. This is due in large part to the value created by transit access, coupled with the revitalized city center. The City of West Valley organized property assemblage in the downtown area and sold this property at market rate as a recruitment tool and incentive to encourage development. The updated zoning codes encouraged denser development around the new transit stations, resulting in several apartment complexes located in close proximity to the West Valley Central Station. One example is ICO at Fairbourne Station, a 225-unit apartment complex north of West Valley Central Station. The city, which owned the land that was used for the project, sold the property and encouraged a denser downtown area by requiring a minimum of four stories. This minimum requirement of four stories applies to all future residential development at Fairbourne Station. Five permanent jobs were created by the opening of ICO at Fairbourne Station.
As part of a mixed-use strategy in the downtown area, an Embassy Suites hotel was developed at this location, opening in 2012, with an estimated 20 jobs at this full-service hotel attributed to the West Valley light rail line.
The Valley Fair Mall expansion in downtown West Valley City was completed in 2012, shortly after the opening of the light rail extension, even though the expansion of the mall began prior to the development of the light rail line. Since the light rail has come to West Valley City, a Megaplex Theater, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Ulta Beauty have all opened at this site, although none have attributed the light rail line to be a catalyst for their development. The success of the mall is intertwined with the redevelopment of downtown West Valley and the increase in transit. Mall traffic increased by 50% in the five years prior to the opening of the West Valley light rail line, and as mentioned previously, the Valley Fair Mall is a major trip generator for the West Valley line.
In 2014, Petzl Company moved its North American headquarters from nearby Clearfield, Utah to West Valley City and constructed an 80,000-sq.ft. facility. Petzl North America has approximately 50 employees, and while no new jobs have been created, it is anticipated that the move to West Valley will allow for expansion of Petzl’s North American operations. One of the major motivations for the company location was proximity to transit services, along with available space in this location.
After the development of the light rail extension in West Valley City, the property values changed within the vicinity of stations and in newly constructed commercial centers.
Not all development in West Valley City can be attributed to the West Valley light rail line. Interview responses indicated that a majority of the development can be attributed directly to the changes in land use policies enacted by the City of West Valley, which were already in the process of being modified prior to this project. However, the light rail development is cited as a catalyst for its implementation by some. Between 2007 and 2015, the population of West Valley City increased by 12% and the 5600 West corridor area is one of the fastest-growing areas in the city. Many businesses are taking advantage of the population growth in this neighborhood. Two Walmart stores are located north and south of the 5600 West corridor and several other major retail services, including Kohl’s, WINCO grocery store and Target are operating, with more businesses and restaurants continuing to open in this area in response to population growth.
At the city center, most of the recent developments are focused around Valley Fair Mall and the city offices complex. The new owners of the mall aggressively expanded the southern part of the property, bringing in restaurants, a theater, and other businesses. This expansion of the Valley Fair Mall began in 2006. A Costco warehouse store also opened in 2007 adjacent to the Valley Fair Mall property, enhancing the commercial appeal of the downtown area. These improvements occurred prior to and in conjunction with the project, and were a contributing factor to the revitalization of the downtown area.
Interviews Organization, Name, Title
UTA- Utah Transit Authority, Hal Ryan Johnson, Project Development Manager
UDOT- Utah Dept. of Transportation, Jeff Harris, Planning Director
West Valley City, Steve Pastorik, Planning Director
Petzl North America Headquarters, Annette Lee, Executive Administrator
West Valley City, Mark Nord, RDA / Economic Development Director
ICO Fairbourne Station
Case Study Developed by University of Maryland