Idaho Planning Group Looks To Utah For Insight On Prospective Regional Rail

Jun 7, 2018

A light rail system was first installed in the Salt Lake City area in 1999. Called "TRAX," three different lines now criss-cross Salt Lake City and the surrounding area.
Credit Jeremy Franklin / Flickr

A planning group in southwest Idaho is contemplating bringing commuter rail to the region. They’re looking to Utah as an example.

Based in Meridian, the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho – better known as Compass – is looking at the feasibility of rail as the region continues to expand. The group charts growth in the Treasure Valley and works to secure federal dollars for transportation projects.

Leaders at Compass say the long-term population forecast for Ada and Canyon Counties puts the region’s population at over a million people by 2040. The association says if the area wants a passenger rail option by the time the population reaches seven figures, now’s the time to start planning it.

The Idaho Press Tribune reports Compass is looking to Salt Lake City as a possible model for how a regional rail system could work. The interim president of the Utah Transit Authority, Steve Meyer, gave a presentation to the Idaho planning group this week.

The commuter rail option through Utah's most populous area is called the FrontRunner. The line starts in central Provo and extends a little past Ogden.
Credit Paul Kimo McGregor / Flickr

Meyer says Utah compared investing in more infrastructure to handle the growing sprawl around Salt Lake City and a mass transit option. In the long run, Meyer says mass transit was the much cheaper option.

There’s currently no rail option in Compass’s master plan. Should they pursue a regional train, Compass would need to come up with a way to fund it. In Utah, voters passed a local option sales tax – something that’s mostly illegal in Idaho. Before establishing a funding source, the Idaho legislature would have to change the law to allow voters the chance to vote on a tax.

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