Provo, Orem getting road makeover with bus rapid transit system

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Provo and Orem are about to get a roadway makeover.

Provo City officials hope to sign an agreement with Utah Transit Authority sometime in November to create a bus rapid transport system. The new system has been an idea Provo and Orem have shared since 1999. City officials hope the system will improve traffic flow within the city and increase the residential use of public transportation.

“I feel it is great preparation for the future,” said Provo City Council member Gary Garrett. “It will help meet the transit demands of the city.”

The project, first called the Provo-Orem Bus Rapid Transit system, was recently renamed the Provo Orem Transportation Improvement Project.

The project is focused on improving roads around the cities to allow for the new rapid bus system. Groundbreaking on the project is planned for Spring 2016 and the project’s completion date is set for December 2017.

Map showing where the planned rapid bus system will be along with road improvements. (UTA)

The bus rapid transport system routes will have less stops than typical bus systems, with buses arriving every five to 15 minutes at designated locations. The improved roadways will feature a private bus lane during sections of the route, allowing for faster travel.

Private bus lanes will be constructed on University Parkway, University Avenue and a few smaller roads near BYU. Private bus lanes on 900 East will not be built due to fear that it would make roads unsafe for BYU student foot traffic.

The system is supposed to help students travel between the Orem and Provo and connect with UTA FrontRunner more efficiently.

“Students can connect with FrontRunner and TRAX without ever having to take a car,” UTA public relations specialist Marc Bowman said in an email. He said with buses arriving every five minutes during peak travel time, students can catch a bus without having to worry about their schedule.

Road improvements are planned on University Parkway between Orem’s State Street and University Avenue — streets that help commuters reach I-15.

“I spend about 30 to 40 minutes getting to school everyday,” said Amanda Snow, a freshman at UVU who lives near BYU. “I wish they were finishing it now instead of in two years.”

A potential problem with the construction of the new transport system is increased traffic around areas congested by BYU students and employees. But UTA is attempting to minimize this traffic during construction, and the future changes in the road will create more traffic lights and widen the roads to help traffic flow.

“The contractor will try to do the majority of work around BYU during the summer months, when enrollment is lower,” Bowman said.

Bowman also said contractors would avoid working near campus on scheduled BYU football game days.

But not everyone is excited for the new bus system. Some Provo-Orem area residents have been vocal about their opposition via social media and in county council meetings over the last year.

“It’s going to be a nightmare for people driving their cars,” said Orem resident Sharon Anderson. “It will only serve to slow down the private traffic.”

Anderson is an administrator on the Stop BRT Facebook page that residents started to oppose the project. Residents also started an online petition to put the new bus system to a public vote. While the petition received over 14,000 signatures, it fell short of the 17,000 signatures required to get anywhere.

“If it were a benefit to me I’d support the idea, but I feel that it isn’t,” said Jocylin Meza, a senior at BYU, “I would never use it.”

Conceptual design of how downtown Provo would look with new bus lanes. Plans for University Avenue haven’t been finalized. (UTA)

In an editorial to the Deseret News in April 2015, former Provo mayor Lewis Billings wrote about his opposition to the planning behind the bus system. He discussed that while Provo needs more transit options, he feels the current UTA plan has some major flaws. Billings claimed that the plans were using outdated information and that the proposed system would actually cause traffic to be worse around the city.

Plans are moving along, despite the opposition to the new bus system.

 

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