July 12, 2008
High Court Lets TRAX Resolution Stand
By Rebecca Palmer Deseret News
A decision by Utah's high court will let stand a Draper City Council resolution regarding a proposed light rail line through the city's rural east side.But residents in the rapidly growing suburb could still persuade the Utah Transit Authority to build elsewhere.
The council vote in question was part of a federal environmental impact process designed to find the best route for a TRAX line between Sandy and Utah county. UTA is still taking public comment on that process, which is expected to be finalized in 2009.
Ground is expected to be broken on the route soon thereafter.
The transit authority is looking at three possible routes, including the east-side one that has residents up in arms. UTA already owns the old Union Pacific property there, and that route is part of long-term transportation plans. But UTA spokeswoman Carrie Bohnsack-Ware said it is entirely feasible that a line could be built closer to State Street.
"It's not some backroom deal. We're trying to be as open as possible," she said.
UTA is looking at which route would get the best ridership, which would cost the least to build and which would have lowest operational and maintenance costs. The criteria are based on strict requirements by the Federal Transit Administration, which is expected to provide much of the funding for the proposed line.
The legal wrangling began in November 2006 when the City Council held an hours-long public hearing before voting to call the east- side route the "locally preferred alternative."
The community group Citizens for Responsible Transportation then gathered thousands of signatures and filed to hold a referendum hoping to overturn the council vote.
CRT was denied its referendum and took the city to district court, which found that the council decision was not subject to referendum because it did not effectively change any law.
Friday, the Utah Supreme Court upheld that decision, halting the chance to get the locally preferred route issue on the ballot.
"We're very, very pleased with (the ruling)," Bohnsack-Ware said. "We're just gratified that the Supreme Court found with the district court."
In contrast, Pugh and CRT are very upset.
"We've been hoodwinked," she said. "It is mind-boggling to us that the Supreme Court would decide in this manner."
Pugh said the public hearing and council vote were portrayed as legislative matters that would give the residents a real say.
"We were made to believe that our opinion mattered," she said. "We've been led to believe this was a legislative process and now we're being told it was just for show. We think it's the wrong choice."
Pugh, a Draper Realtor and homeowner, is concerned that the proposed route will disrupt her rural town, destroy a local jogging trail and endanger children.
For more information on the proposed routes, to join a mailing list about the project or to submit comment to the transit authority, visit rideuta.com/projects. To contact CRT, visit drapertrax.com.
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