UDOT eyes rail potential

Consultant to study feasibility

An Amtrak train on the California Zephyr route heads west past the Utah Book Cliffs. Trains like this currently take make stops in Salt Lake City, Green River and Grand Junction. Utah is exploring the possibility of bringing service to Moab. Photo by David Gubler/Wikimedia Commons

The Utah Department of Transportation presented to Moab stakeholders last week plans for a feasibility study looking at the prospect of bringing passenger rail service to Moab.

UDOT has hired Cambridge Systematics, a transportation consulting firm headquartered in Massachusetts, to conduct the study. Cambridge Systematics Principal Andreas Aeppli spoke at the presentation.

The main outcome of the study, according to Aeppli’s presentation, will be “essential information on the opportunity and considerations of a service for a discussion on whether further exploration is warranted.”

The initial study is a high-level look at what the largest barriers might be to bringing train service to Moab and what the demand would be. The focus will be traffic between Moab and Salt Lake City, with Grand Junction a possible part of the scope.

At the outset, Aeppli said locals could expect the largest barriers to be institutional, such as who will cover costs, who will own and operate the service, possibly working with another state, Colorado, to add service to Grand Junction. Getting permission and jurisdiction to use the UMTRA site in the future as a possible train station was among other concerns.

Another possible barrier in Moab is what is known as the last mile problem. Future rail passengers arriving in Moab after a trip from Salt Lake City, for example, might be stepping off the train onto a platform where the UMTRA site is currently located, just north of the Colorado River. However, without a transit system connecting the train station to downtown, getting into the city could be difficult.

Aeppli said the goal was to complete the study by the end of the summer.

Note: The original version of this article contained some misspellings of Andreas Aeppli’s last name.