UTA Light Rail Construction in the Salt Lake City Central Business District
Title: UTA Light Rail Construction in the Salt Lake City Central Business District
Date: March 2, 1998
The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) is constructing a Light Rail Transit (LRT or TRAX) project running from a southern terminus at 10000 South in the City of Sandy northerly within the existing UP railroad right-of-way to 1300 South in Salt Lake City. At that point TRAX will share Salt Lake City streets and will terminate at the Delta Center on South Temple Street. The railroad ROW currently contains single and double track segments with a large storage yard located along the ROW in the City of Murray.
TRAX will operate at 10 minute, 20 minute and 30 minute headways depending on the time of day. The hours of operation will begin at 5:00 a.m. and conclude at 12:00 a.m., in the dedicated rail corridor, TRAX will share track with Salt Lake City Southern Railroad (SLCSRR), a shortline freight operation. The passenger and freight service will be timed separately, with freight activities occurring only in the hours when TRAX is out of operation. The maximum running speed of the Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) will be 55 miles per hour.
In developing the construction contracts for the (Central Business District) CBD the primary concern was reducing the inconvenience and loss of business which inherently occurs with major construction in city streets. The LRT alignment is a double track system in the center of Main Street from 700 South to South Temple and east on South Temple to the Delta Center, a distance of seven city blocks on Main and four city blocks on South Temple. The City of Salt Lake initially wanted construction to occur in one block at time. Such a plan would have reduced construction efficiency and increased cost. However, through negotiation and careful phasing of construction, the UTA was ultimately able to convince the City that construction in two block segments would not have twice the impact of one block and the total duration of the work would be reduced significantly. As UTA was developing its final construction plans in the CBD for two construction contracts, Zion Securities began construction of a high rise office building at the corner of South Temple and Main Street, with a parking garage under Main Street. At the northwest corner of this city center intersection is Temple Square which includes the Morman Temple, Tabernacle and Visitors Center. At the northeast corner of South Temple is the business and archive center for the Morman Church. On the east side of Main Street is ZCMI mall and the west side of Main is the Cross Roads Mall. This busy intersection contains the major tourist attraction of the city and has high levels of automobile and pedestrian traffic.
As the Zion Securities construction started, UTA and the City began to consider ways to include the construction of City and transit facilities at the site while street was open for the garage construction. Salt Lake City, the owner of Main Street, determined that a twelve inch diameter waterline needed to be relocated from underneath the future light rail track slab and reconfigured the waterline's intersection with an existing ten inch diameter waterline. The City also determined than an existing utility vault needed to be enlarged to accommodate additional wiring and required relocation of the utility vault from underneath the light rail track slab in South Temple Street near Main Street. As a result the City, UTA and Zions contractor determined that the construction of City utilities, the light rail tracks and light rail station on Main Street and South Temple, repaving Main Street and South Temple, and replacing the existing side walks as part of the Zions underground parking structure was feasible. This action would avoid the need to interrupt street activities a second time and permitted the UTA work to be undertaken and completed during the time Main Street is closed to traffic as part of the Zions underground parking structure construction. Accordingly, the UTA and Zions contractor negotiated and entered into a contract for the construction of the Salt Lake City utility relocations and the UTA light rail facilities at South Temple and 100 block of Main Street. The contract was basically a change order from a third party, UTA, and included all the required federal clauses and requirements and the project was built to the UTA design criteria. Essentially, the change order was a sole source negotiated contract that was justified from a cost, schedule and unique conditions related to public urgency and reducing impact on the city, general public and business community.
The major advantages included closing the 100 block of South Main at South Temple once instead of twice. Second the Zion Securities contract had acclimated the business community, residents and general public to the interruptions to traffic and business which would make future street closures easier to deal with. The schedule advantages were significant in that the work was being done in advance of the start of construction of the CBD, thus the total contract duration of the UTA CBD Phase II construction could be reduced. The construction of the Main Street Garage is ahead of schedule so the transit work will be accomplished within the Zion Contractor’s original contract which calls for the street work to be completed by November 15, 1997.
2. The Lesson
The UTA approach to construction in the Central Business District provides several good examples of methods to minimize the construction impact and reduce the time duration of inconvenience to business and the general public.
First, by adding the transit work to an existing commercial construction contract, the UTA was able to mitigate impacts upon the public and the businesses located in the vicinity of Main Street and South Temple Street by avoiding the need to interrupt street activities a second time and permitting some of the UTA work to be undertaken and completed during the time Main Street is closed to traffic as part of the Zions underground parking structure construction.
The timing of the commercial construction as the initial contract that closed Main Street will help UTA in the future closure of other CBD street segments, because the business community and public will have learned to cope with the construction and will be better able to deal with the inconvenience.
The concurrent transit construction by the Zion's contractor reduced the total time street closure will be necessary in the CBD resulting in fewer days of traffic and business interruption along the portion of Main Street already closed.
The execution of this plan provided the forum for cooperation among the parties, i.e. Salt Lake City, UTA, Zion Securities, the business community and the general public.
The lesson applies to Grantees with transit construction that could be included in the scope of work of private construction contractor working in a transit right of way. The construction contract demonstrated good business practice and common sense on the part of Salt Lake City and the UTA.