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Study: UTA rail projects helped fuel economic growth

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Lee Davidson – The Salt Lake Tribune

Mass transit may aim mostly to move people efficiently and reduce traffic congestion and pollution. But a new study looking at Utah says rail expansion also attracted plenty of firms and development that created hundreds of jobs.

“TRAX and FrontRunner rail lines are attributed with spurring development that has resulted in nearly 1,300 net new jobs generating over $66 million in income and $227 million in business sales annually,” says a new report by the Boston-based Economic Development Research Group.

The study was commissioned by Siemens, the manufacturer of TRAX light-rail cars. It was released this week at the rail conference of the American Public Transportation Association held in Salt Lake City — where transit officials talked about stressing economic benefits of their projects to push for more federal funding.

The study said it tried to look beyond the short-term business and job benefits caused by the construction of new TRAX and FrontRunner lines, and looked at long-term economic impacts.

“Major companies including Adobe, eBay, Goldman Sachs, Overstock.com and Workday have made office-location decisions based in part on proximity to TRAX and FrontRunner stations,” it said.

Beyond direct wages and business sales, supplier purchases and employee spending raised the total annual impact on Salt Lake County’s economy “to nearly 2,800 jobs, close to $136 million in income, and over $410 million in business sales annually,” it said.

The study adds that those estimates “reflect only some of the economic development impacts associated with the $7 billion of private investment made near transit stations.”

The Utah Transit Authority spent $2.5 billion to add 70 miles of new rail in five years from 2008 to 2013 by completing a FrontRunner extension to Provo and TRAX extensions to Salt Lake City International Airport, West Valley City, South Jordan and Draper. (…)

To read more, please visit the Salt Lake Tribune.