UTA board adopts mixed-use plans for train stations in Ballpark, Midvale and West Jordan | News | Salt Lake City Weekly

UTA board adopts mixed-use plans for train stations in Ballpark, Midvale and West Jordan 

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click to enlarge A rendering of proposed changes to the Ballpark Trax Station in Salt Lake City. - UTAH TRANSIT AUTHORITY
  • Utah Transit Authority
  • A rendering of proposed changes to the Ballpark Trax Station in Salt Lake City.

Trax light rail stations in Salt Lake City's Ballpark Neighborhood, Midvale and West Jordan are set to evolve into bustling urban hubs and town centers under a series of development plans that were adopted Wednesday by the Utah Transit Authority Board of Trustees.

At the existing Ballpark, Midvale Center, Fort Union, Bingham Junction, Historic Gardner and West Jordan City Center stations, surface parking and other underutilized acreage would be repurposed as multi-family housing and retail space, with new plazas and pedestrian connections helping to invite riders into the transit system without as much need of a private vehicle.

If realized, the plans would represent a significant shift in the built environment around those Trax stations, which are currently undermined by industrial, dilapidated and otherwise barren land uses that push destinations out of practical reach for most would-be transit patrons.

"It’s reflective of how transit has changed the dynamics around those stations," UTA chairman Carlton Christensen said. "This is a nice piece of that evolution."

click to enlarge UTAH TRANSIT AUTHORITY
  • Utah Transit Authority

These station area plans (SAPs) are incentivized by state legislation and involve a complex web of cross-jurisdictional cooperation, with UTA reliant on the buy-in of city and county governments, regional planning organizations, the state's highway-focused Department of Transportation and private interests like utility companies and landowners. And while the plans adopted Wednesday include UTA-owned parcels that the transit agency controls, their design, implementation and ultimate success is contingent on locally-enforced zoning regulations and the compatibility of neighboring land uses.

In the case of West Jordan, one of the station area plans is intended as the catalyst for a functioning town center, which is currently lacking despite the city's incorporation in 1941. But at Historic Gardner station, city leaders are reportedly committed to maintaining a "low-density vision" for the area, which is adjacent to Gardner Village and the Jordan River Parkway.

"It historically has been an agriculture-based town," Christensen said. "I’m crossing my fingers that the stars will align and the school district and others will continue the vision and our property will be catalytic."

click to enlarge UTAH TRANSIT AUTHORITY
  • Utah Transit Authority

Outside of Salt Lake City, many of the areas serviced by Trax light rail function only as park-and-ride connections for suburban commuters headed downtown, with little to no residential, civic, commercial or recreational destinations located within walking distance. Since drivers are typically reluctant to switch modes mid trip, and since most train riders arrive at and depart from stations on foot or by bicycle, these designs have left the broader transit network to operate far below its potential, and leading most trips taken by Utahns to congested and heavily subsidized highways.

At Ballpark Station, three acres currently dominated by a 193-stall park-and-ride lot would make way for a high-density, mixed-use housing and retail project, plus new plaza and public amenity space. UTA also plans to swap the current center-boarding configuration to side-loading platforms, allowing greater access to the train from the east and west. The design is intended to transition the station to a more "urban" format, according to UTA development manager Kayla Kinkead.

Christensen noted that Ballpark Station is currently the nearest park-and-ride Trax stop to the downtown core. But improvements to feeder bus lines and other non-driving connections has made the park-and-ride format less useful for city residents.

"When it first opened, it was kind of the last place that you could park and ride before you went into downtown," Christensen said. "Those individuals can get on where they need to and for city residents, they have ways to connect that they’ve never had before."

click to enlarge UTAH TRANSIT AUTHORITY
  • Utah Transit Authority

In Midvale, the UTA board went a step further in formally adopting a Transit Oriented District (TOD) around its Trax station. Agency staff reported that the Midvale City government is supportive of more density around those sites, in contrast to other municipalities that resist urbanization, and that there is already developer interest in moving forward..

"This one is ready to start exploring with the development communities," said Paul Drake, UTA's real estate and TOD director.

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Benjamin Wood

Benjamin Wood

Bio:
Lifelong Utahn Benjamin Wood has worn the mantle of City Weekly's news editor since 2021. He studied journalism at Utah State University and previously wrote for The Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News and Entertainment Weekly

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