All aboard! Public gets peek at Frontrunner December opening

2012-09-28T00:26:00Z 2012-11-29T06:30:05Z All aboard! Public gets peek at Frontrunner December openingCathy Allred - Daily Herald Daily Herald
September 28, 2012 12:26 am  • 

LEHI -- McKay Jackson wasn't sure what to expect when his Oak Canyon Junior High teacher gave him the assignment to job shadow someone for a day.

The 13-year-old chose his dad, Andrew Jackson, who is Mountainland Association of Governments executive director, and found out there were certain perks to the job -- like exploring a FrontRunner train months before the commuter rail starts zipping through Utah County.

He was in Lehi on Wednesday afternoon when Utah Transit Authority engineers pulled the commuter train into the station for an open tour to the public.

"It's cool," McKay Jackson said. "I like trains and engines and stuff like that."

His first time on a train, he said he thought train cars were a little smaller than UTA's Frontrunner's two-story passenger cars. A constant stream of curious visitors boarded the cars and took time to learn more about the public service.

"I'm pretty happy with the turn out; it's been steady," said Nan Kuhn, another Mountainland employee.

FrontRunner can speed by at up to 79 mph, but for the tour was at rest. The train operators are in their final months in training and come Dec. 10 will be running about 60 trains every day from Provo to Salt Lake City.

Kathryn Tanner lives in Thanksgiving Village and went on the tour with two of her neighbors to find out how she could get to destinations in Salt Lake City. Kuhn showed Tanner the route and how she could board TRAX in Salt Lake City to arrive at Temple Square, The Gateway, conference buildings and City Creek Center.

"I don't want to drive through all that traffic," Tanner said. "I use TRAX 106 to get to the conference center, City Creek, any of that down that way. I will find out how to use this too."

She said she often takes company into Salt Lake City and enjoys the commute on TRAX because she can talk to friends and relatives while traveling. They usually prepare sandwiches to eat along the way.

UTA engineer Robert Zampedri has worked 36 years for the public transportation service, 30 of those as a bus driver. After going through extensive schooling and training, he drives FrontRunner.

"Yeah, it's a little heavier and snow doesn't bother it much," Zampedri said of the transition to driving a 400,000-plus pound train. The engine weighs in at 289,000 pounds, and each car behind it is an extra 120,000 pounds. Because the train is heavy, it takes a mile for the engineer to be able to bring the train to a complete stop.

"It's nice; it's fun," he said.

The children at the special stop for FrontRunner were enthusiastic about the opportunity to get on a real train. Deann Knobloch said her 4- and 2-year-old sons usually didn't sit as still as they were doing in the commuter car. Her husband Wendelin Knobloch is associate planner for American Fork.

"The cities I know are happy to have a train station," Wendelin Knobloch said. A train station means land values go up, transportation improves and there is more development around the station.

Ethan Allen, 5, was candid about the tour perhaps more so than the adults at the exhibit. His favorite part of the tour was seeing the engineers drive the train backwards.

"There were even tables for computers, bike racks," Allen said of the travel cars.

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