Marooned at the Provo FrontRunner Station, People Are Climbing Over Freight Trains and Jumping Onto the Tracks…Here’s How This Dangerous Problem Can Be Fixed
Anyone that uses the Provo FrontRunner station regularly is aware of this problem: freight trains regularly sit on the tracks, blocking every North / South intersection that could be used to get to the FrontRunner Station.
Commuters often arrive early, watch their FrontRunner train pull into the station, wait for 15 minutes, and watch their train pull away without them. All while blocked by the freight trains.
Some Provo residents simply avoid taking the train because of the unpredictability of a blocked route to the station. Others have become frighteningly comfortable with climbing over the freight trains in business attire, hoisting their bicycles over the non-moving trains, and even passing young children in between train cars. What’s worse is that many times people are climbing over the freight trains and jumping onto active tracks – unaware that another freight train may be headed their way.
Why Hasn’t UTA Taken Care of This Before? How Can They Pay for It?
The big reason that UTA hasn’t taken care of this problem seems to be cost. A pedestrian / bicycle bridge to the station would be somewhat expensive.
However, precautions have been taken at many other stations to provide safe passage and Provo should be no different. Here’s a Farmington overpass, for example:
One way that UTA could fund an overpass would be to use Prop 1 funds if voters pass the initiative in November. At a recent meeting, UTA representatives said that their priority would likely be to spend the funds on extending service on bus routes unless they heard otherwise from Provo residents. And, as you’ll see below, Provo residents have been pretty loud and clear about the need for the overpass.
If Prop 1 passes, expenses could conceivably be shared between UTA, the city, and the county (each entity receiving a portion of the funds). However, this should be a UTA priority no matter how the vote goes.
Yeah, But Why Don’t People Just Cross at University Ave?
When freight trains are blocking the FrontRunner station, people who live one block from the station are actually living one block PLUS a half mile walk up a dangerous auto-bridge. Take a look at the route (and note how people have to make a long North-South loop just to get on the bridge):
When freight trains are stopped in front of the station, generally all other crossings on that stretch are also blocked. Getting to the University Ave. overpass may be a few minutes of annoyance in a car. But, on foot or by bike, it is too far. Trying to get to the station with kids or in business dress (heels…yikes) by walking an extra half mile is an obstacle that stops a lot of people from feeling that the FrontRunner is a consistent, reliable alternative.
One of UTA’s goals is to reduce the first mile / last mile problem – the problem that many people don’t use public transportation because they don’t have an accessible way to reach it without walking a mile there or walking a mile from transportation to their destination. Reducing the extra half mile that is added when people have to walk to the University Ave. overpass will be an excellent step towards that goal.
It’s also important to note that the sidewalks on the University Ave. auto-bridge are extremely narrow. Two people passing each other is awkward and even dangerous when one steps out into traffic, not to mention bikes or strollers trying to navigate the area. (Even getting on the bridge as a pedestrian takes an act of courage as its entrance is marooned in the middle of the street with road on both sides and no crosswalks).
Where Would a Provo FrontRunner Overpass Go?
UTA would have to work with the city to figure this out. An ideal location would be 600 South and 100 West. 600 South and Freedom Blvd. could also work.
Take a look at this awesome rendering of a Provo ped / bike bridge from Urban Design Associates working with the Giv Group:
Is There Public Support for a FrontRunner Overpass?
Absolutely. Just about anyone that uses FrontRunner regularly will have stories about jumping over stagnant freight trains or seeing other people do so. Here are some of the write-in responses Provo residents gave to UTA regarding funding priorities:
“The main thing Provo needs is a way for people to get to the train at the University Avenue station. Regularly there are freight trains stopped for long periods of time and pedestrians sometimes jump between cars to get to the station. (Super dangerous) but the only alternative is to miss the train because there is no pedestrian bridge over the freight tracks.”
“I see a need for a pedestrian bridge at the FrontRunner stop @Provo station both for safety and practicality. My home overlooks the tracks. At least once a week I see some kid risk too much trying to beat the train on foot or bike. I am a big believer in public transportation, I specifically choose to live here so I can go without a car. The footbridge would make commuting much easier, not only for me, but also for the growing number of people I see drive their bikes to the station. A pedestrian overpath would allow people to ride or carry their bikes easily without having to wait in the elements at the crossroad where trains frequently block commuters.”
“I travel with my disabled, wheelchair bound son daily on the FrontRunner from Provo to Murray and I am often concerned about safety, especially surrounding the Provo station. Frequently we have issues of his wheelchair wheels getting caught in the tracks. We also encounter missing the train due to other lines long haul trains maneuvering and stopping on the tracks next to the FrontRunner line. It would be most useful to us and many others if some sort of wheelchair and pedestrian accessible bridge or tunnel could be built at the Provo station.”
“Please build a bridge at the Provo FrontRunner station so that people crossing the cargo train tracks don’t miss their FrontRunner train!”
“The Provo FrontRunner station is sometimes difficult to get to when blocked by freight, and this is causing both delays and a dangerous situation because people are climbing over the trains. Most of Provo lives north of the tracks, and people walking or driving are more likely to cross the tracks at Freedom Blvd. than University Avenue.”
“There NEEDS to be a pedestrian bridge put in place at the Provo stop. Too many times I have been stopped by the Pacific Union train and even though it stops, myself and many patrons have to climb up and over the train to get to the front runner. It’s absolutely absurd. This really isn’t something that is for convenience…it is a safety necessity. For those of us that ride daily and rely on this daily, we need a walkway or a bridge for bikes/ped crossing.”
“We need a pedestrian bridge over the tracks at 600 S in Provo so people can get to the bus station easier, a lot of times the road is blocked by Union Pacific trains.”
“I have missed the FrontRunner on my way to work multiple times because another train has been sitting on the tracks at the Provo station. I was waiting with about 8 other people. I left and came back hoping the train would have moved in half an hour, but it hadn’t and I missed the next train, too. I ended up being an hour late to work. There needs to be a pedestrian bridge over those tracks so people can get to the FrontRunner when other trains are in the way. I was tempted to climb over the connection between cars because the train blocking our way wasn’t even moving.”
“An overpass to the Provo Station for bikes and pedestrians when the tracks are blocked by Union Station trains. I’ve missed the train often, even when leaving early enough to get to the station ten to twenty minutes before the train is supposed to depart.”
“I love the Provo center station, but it is so hard to get to if you are not in a car. We desperately need a new pedestrian solution–a bridge/flyover or something that would make it possible to walk from the station to Center Street.”
“We desperately need a pedestrian/bike overpass to the Provo FrontRunner Station. It is incredibly dangerous with the Union Pacific tracks there and more could be done to make the station pedestrian accessible.”
“I think UTA should build pedestrian bridges at select FrontRunner stations (i.e. Provo) to pass over UP trains, it’s irritating missing a train when the Freedom Blvd crossing is blocked.”
What Can Provo Residents Do?
There’s clearly an outpouring of support for an overpass. You can check out their survey to read even more responses. Please help get the word out by sharing this info however you can. Please also consider submitting your own survey answers and help us work together with UTA, Provo City, and the county to take care of this long overdue problem.
Thanks to Chloe Jensen, Paige Marie Pitcher, and Karen Tapahe for the photos and videos of people stuck behind and climbing over trains. Thanks to Urban Design Associates working with the Giv Group for the artistic rendering of a potential ped / bike overpass.