HDR Fronts FrontRunner Double-Tracking

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Photo courtesy HDR

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has selected a team led by HDR and including WSP USA to provide program management services for its $966.2 million FrontRunner Strategic Double Track Project, which will add at least nine new segments of double track along the 82-mile, 16-station Ogden-Provo regional/commuter rail system and update signaling systems.

When complete, the project is expected to double FrontRunner’s peak-hour service frequency to trains every 15 minutes, increase overall capacity by 55% and enhance reliability.

HDR will manage the project’s overall scope, schedule and cost in coordination with UDOT and the Utah Transit Authority (UTA). This includes assistance in the selection of a project delivery method, environmental documentation, federal grant support, project controls implementation, risk analysis, public outreach, preliminary engineering design, design review and other tasks.

The current FrontRunner system has 61 miles of single track and 22 miles of double track. “Northbound and southbound trains share the same track along most of the corridor, so any disruption can cause cascading delays,“ HDR noted. ”The Strategic Double Track Project will roughly double the amount of double track, allowing for more frequent trains and more reliable service. As part of the project, UTA will also purchase 10 more trainsets to accommodate the expanded capacity.”

Project funding is 69.5% federal through a $671.1 million Federal Transit Administration Section 5309 Capital Investment Grant (CIG); 22.8% state through a $220.1 million Utah Transit Transportation Investment Fund grant; and 7.7% local through $75 million from the Utah Transit Authority Sales Tax.

According to the FTA’s Core Capacity Project Development evaluation (download below), the project corridor is bound on the east by the Wasatch Mountains and on the west by Utah Lake and Great Salt Lake, “which physically constrain growth in the area between the major cities of Ogden, Salt Lake City and Provo. As such, Interstate -15 and FrontRunner are the two major options for north-south travel through the region. The project allows for increased train speeds, improves reliability, and allows for the provision of more frequent service. This in turn leads to a more attractive travel option than driving on I-15.”

UTA selected a locally preferred alternative (LPA) in January 2022. The project entered Core Capacity Project Development in October 2022. The Wasatch Front Regional Council adopted the LPA into the region’s “fiscally constrained” long-range transportation plan in December 2022. UDOT completed the environmental review process with receipt of a Categorical Exclusion from FTA in December 2022, and anticipates receiving a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) in September 2024 and transitioning to double-track revenue service in late 2028, according to FTA.

The FrontRunner system uses a portion of the right-of-way of the former Utah Central Railroad, built in 1869 to connect the the nation’s first transcontinental railroad with Salt Lake City. Union Pacific acquired the Utah Central in 1878. Today, UTA-owned track parallels UP track until Ogden. UP and UTA would share track north of Ogden if service is ever returned to Pleasant View or expanded north to Brigham View.

Mark Fuhrmann

“The FrontRunner serves as one of the most critical elements of Utah’s transit system, and this important expansion will provide exciting new mobility options to the state’s rapidly expanding population,” said HDR Senior Project Manager Mark Fuhrmann, who is leading HDR’s team. “HDR’s experts have supported agencies across North America in completing similar double-track projects, and I look forward to the day when we add the FrontRunner to that growing list of success stories.”

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