Newly approved transit project aims to facilitate Provo growth

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A map showing the new rapid transit route through Provo and Orem. The new transit project will play an integral role in the development and growth of Provo. (Provo City)

Driving around Provo can be a hassle. Trying to find a parking spot can be frustrating enough to make some want to sell their cars altogether. After the steps taken by the Provo and Orem city councils, this option may be much more realistic.

The city councils voted to build a new $190 million Bus Rapid Transit system aimed to make transportation around Orem and Provo easier. The rapid transit system is set to be functional in two years and will utilize bus-only lanes to ensure speedy transportation. All of the ticketing will be prepaid and the buses will arrive at each stop approximately every six minutes.

This new system will make transportation convenient and prepare the city for the expected rise in population over the coming years. Provo Mayor John Curtis talked about the progress and potential growth it will bring to the city.

“This is an important foundational building block for the future of our city,” Curtis said. He hopes that this new system will bring new opportunities while also addressing concerns about a lack of parking and dangerous automobile emissions.

Some members of the Provo City Council were not as eager to make this decision.  George Stewart, a former mayor and current council member, expressed in the City Council meeting his concern that the issue is not being voted on by the people.

“I just think any time we feel we know better on this kind of project than the people, we’re in trouble,” Stewart said. Stewart said he released a statement about the project and 49 of the 52 responses he received were against the new transit system.

A central reason of concern for many is the $190 million cost. Curtis tried to put these concerns to rest and said, “This comes out of proceeds that have been approved by our voters twice in the last decade, so the tax has already been approved and collected.” The tax money, along with a federal grant, will fund the project.

The new system will run through South Provo on University Avenue from the Provo Towne Center Mall and up to the Provo Frontrunner station. It will turn right on 700 N and then left on 900 E, passing BYU. It will then pass the MTC and Provo Temple before connecting with University Parkway to lead to University Mall, UVU and the Orem Frontrunner station.

The new buses will be articulated. This means they will be similar to two buses connected in the middle like an accordion. The designated lanes that these buses will use require construction and renovation to some of Provo’s streets. One of the largest sections to renovate will be the stretch of University Parkway that connects North Provo to Orem.  This construction is set to begin later this summer.

There is some debate about the route this project will take. City Councilman David Harding spoke up in the meeting. “I’m not convinced this is the best route,” Harding said.  There are some disagreements but Harding recognized the importance of the project for the city, “I do think it makes a big impact on our city.”

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