After nearly four years of construction, the Utah Transit Authority and Salt Lake City have officially opened the six-mile light rail line linking Salt Lake City International Airport to the existing 20 miles of light rail and wider mass transit system along the Wasatch Front.

Photo by Brian Fryer
The $209-million light-rail project was brought in under budget and two months ahead of schedule.

The $209-million project was brought in under budget and two months ahead of schedule by the joint venture team of Stacy and Witbeck and Kiewit Western. The project included the light rail tracks to the airport and associated stations and signaling, as well as the demolition, relocation and reconstruction on the North Temple viaduct over the Union Pacific rail yard. The viaduct includes a light rail station (the North Temple Bridge-Guadalupe station), which provides access to UTA’s Front Runner commuter rail on a platform below.

Local leaders attending the April 13 ceremony included Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah; Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and a long-time champion of mass transit in the state. Beattie praised the forethought and commitment of citizens, who in 2006 voted to dedicate a portion of state sales tax to transportation projects, including light rail.

“So many times people don’t recognize the sacrifices that have made to get these projects done,” he said. “We are fortunate because this would not have happened without that vote for transit and the success we’ve had with earlier light rail lines.”

Officials also praised the patience of business owners along North Temple and the efforts made by contractors to be responsive to their needs.

Ryan Snow, project manager for Stacy and Witbeck, which held the CM/GC contract for the project, said the owner/stakeholder involvement in the project had been unique and successful. Early in the project, the joint-venture contracting team renegotiated a guaranteed-maximum price contract for the viaduct with Salt Lake City and UTA.

“That combination of owners, the city and the UTA, is unique for a project like this, and the community involvement with this has been intense. We have really worked with the businesses involved along this corridor to maintain access,” Snow said.

UTA officials noted that 1,700 individual meetings took place between the contractors and business owners and residents near North Temple. Builders were even invited join a bride for wedding photos in appreciation of their help in minimizing impacts to her wedding reception at the nearby historic Devereaux Mansion.

The new viaduct was shifted nearly a block west of its original location (ENR Mountain States Oct. 1, 2010). John Boknecht, project engineer with Stacy and Witbeck, said soft soils in the area and the construction schedule necessitated the extensive use of geofoam and lightweight fill in  constructing the bridge abutments.

The line has six stations equipped with solar panels and low-energy LED lighting.

Snow says about 250 people were employed at the height of the project.