Vineyard Mayor Julie Fullmer has been working triple time with several stakeholders to get the Vineyard FrontRunner station up and running.
Wednesday’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation has given the city up to $6.8 million in a matching grant has made moving forward possible.
The U.S. DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration announced that grant funds under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program and Special Transportation Circumstances Program would fund 45 projects in 29 states, including the FrontRunner project in Vineyard.
“These investments in intercity passenger and freight rail will benefit surrounding communities, make grade crossings safer and improve service reliability,” said Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Transportation Secretary, during the announcement.
The money for the Vineyard Rail Consolidation Project will help “relocate two miles of Union Pacific track that bisects Vineyard, thereby eliminating three public crossings, two private crossings and two inactive crossings to make room for residential and commercial growth, including an intermodal bus and rail stations,” according to the grant press release.
The project will cost close to $18 million, Fullmer said. The money is coming as a combination of local, state and these federal funds.
“We put tireless effort in getting Union Pacific Railroad to sign the agreement. That was quite an undertaking,” Fullmer said. “There are no words to describe it, or too many. Watching this grant come in this morning felt like such an accomplishment. The impact, the change and affect it will have is hard to express.”
Fullmer’s relief and enthusiasm over the news has been felt throughout the state.
“It’s a very momentous thing for us, the state, other cities, the Utah Valley University (and) the people who first started the discussion,” Fullmer said. “There have been phone calls all day. I called our recent mayor to let him know it happened — we did it.”
Fullmer said the city is thankful to the Utah Department of Transportation in letting them partner in this process and helping make this possible.
“We will purchase ground, construct a new alignment next to the front runner and light rail easement and then remove the spur line off Geneva,” Fullmer said. “We are starting as soon as possible and hopefully in the next year and a half we will see it transform.”
“We’ve been working on this project for 12 years and we are all really excited about it,” said Jake McHargue, city manager. “This is the last piece to the puzzle and we feel excited to have this come in.”
Stewart Park, project manager at Geneva Anderson who purchased the properties at the old Geneva steel mill, has been waiting to hear the news as well.
“For over 13 years, those of us working on the Geneva project along with the city of Vineyard have worked tirelessly to find a way to remove the spur line from Geneva Road,” Park said. “Because of the multiple facets of the project affected by this deal, it is one of the most exciting developments that had happened to Geneva. The benefits to the project and the city will be significant.”
Val Peterson, vice president of finance and administration at Utah Valley University, said this gives the impetus the school needs to move forward with its expansion plans.
“It allows us to revitalize the Geneva site and Geneva Road from a hard industrial use and run down road to be used as a key component to the expansion and restoration of the Geneva corridor in UDOT’s plan, Orem’s Geneva renewal project and invites retail, businesses, and new possibilities and access for UVU’s master campus and sport campus,” Peterson said.
According to Peterson, “It allows for light rail to come into the multimodal hub to move students through the Vineyard and Orem campuses, and onto the BRT system.”
UDOT will also be able to fix the 400 N. Geneva Road intersection, making it a safer place to drive, and will allow Orem and UDOT to widen center street.
“UVU is excited for the continual progress and development in Vineyard as the university plans for the future of its nearly 280-acre campus within the city,” Peterson said. “The collaboration between UVU, @Geneva and Vineyard to move the rail spur signals the willingness of each entity to plan for a vibrant future for our community.”
Morgan Brim, Vineyard community development director, said, “This removal and relocation opens up better and safer access points taking our city out of a box. From an economic development standpoint it opens up and allows us to utilize a significant portion of our city at a higher level. It will enhance our pedestrian walkways and make the area clean and beautiful.”