Trivia-night question: How old is Trax? Almost 20. I remember when our former mayor, the late Deedee Corradini, battled Union Pacific Railroad to move its tracks so that we could get more use out of the land downtown. If you're a newbie to our capital city, you might not know that where The Gateway now stands once were brown fields of contaminated dirt. Salt Lake City didn't have more than 180,000 residents at the time, and all bore the burden of outsiders coming in to work, use our parking spaces and emergency services. Moving the freeway ramps to 500 South, 600 South, 600 North and the "spaghetti bowl" at 2100 South gave the city more land that could be developed and taxed to help fund services. To do that, the mayor had to wrangle quite a deal with not just the railroad but with the federal government to get highway and light rail funding. It worked! The first day Trax operated, a high number of people jumped on board. Some thought it was just a fluke, but Trax was really needed. And well, the rest is history—not quite.
Let me disclose I've been a board member of UTA for the past two years. I'm in meetings all the time about where services are going to expand and how people want mass transit nearby. Provo and Lehi are experiencing increases in new businesses and residents and are in desperate need of mass transit. They are getting it, as is Weber State University (better bus routes). And there's so much more planned for the immediate and near future.
I guess I'm a socialist. I believe that all public transportation should be free. I've owned a place at the Dakota Lofts, 380 S. 300 West, since 1998, just as Trax was coming in. The building is near a curve and the trains are wearing out the tracks. As owners, we've bitched and moaned a lot over the years about the screeching rails, and UTA has slowly come around to admitting the tracks need replacing. They just dug up the "Angelina's Corner" rails at 700 South last summer, and there are more replacement projects to come: Main Street and 400 South and the curve up the hill to the University of Utah. Crews also have been trying for the past few years to use different greasing compounds to reduce the noise—but with mixed success. They have to follow environmental laws as to what compounds can be used—and some greases work while others don't. As of late, it's been pretty quiet around the test area near my building, so I guess this goop is working—but rails still need replacing at most major curves in the city.