Organization plans passenger rail from Logan to Cedar City

By Rod Boam, Cache Valley Daily

This article was published in the Cache Valley Daily on June 2, 2019.

A Salt Lake man is proposing a rail service that would take passengers from Logan to Cedar City and back. Mike Christensen established the Utah Rail Passengers Association.

Mike Christensen, who established the Utah Rail Passengers Association, got rid of his automobile in 2017 and uses bicycles and public transportation to get around.

The route would pick up Grand Junction, Colorado and go over to Moab.

“It is still in its infancy,” he said. “UDOT has come up with funding to look at service to Moab.”

“It is difficult to estimate what the ridership would be because there are no studies that can give ridership information.”

Utah Department of Transportation officials want to look at the tourism aspect, not just the number of local towns along the way.

Christensen was looking at other state’s rail systems. There is one passenger rail in Illinois that has a similar distance and similar populations and gives a good estimate of how it could grow in Utah.

As far as Logan goes, it would be expensive to put tracks through Sardine Canyon; Valley View Highway (SR-30) would take a little longer but be a good alternative.

“My proposal has a route going to Grand Junction because there are over 100,000 people there,” he said. “We get the same demographics from Logan and Cedar City.”

The high-speed passenger rail wouldn’t make as many stops as Frontrunner does, it would just stop at major cities.

”My efforts are to start a conversation about extending passenger and freight service to and from the most populated cities in Utah,” he said. “Right now, there is no rail service at all in St. George.”

Christensen has visited many of the places he is proposing the transportation system would go through.

“In December, I made my first field visits, starting with Moab, which is a town of 5,000 residents and located near Arches and Canyonlands national parks,” he said. “Moab is the tourist hub of southeastern Utah; it is close to the entrance of Arches National Park.”

Some Moab residents realized that in order to continue to grow their tourism industry, they need additional transportation options to bring in more visitors.

The people in Moab formed a travel advisory committee to find a way to move people in and out the area. They already have railroad tracks and are a good potential for passenger rail.

One of the advantages of rail service to Cedar City would be take passengers to Moab and some of the southern Utah National Parks.

“My proposal is all about using existing tracks,” Christensen said. “The people in Moab started the fire to get UDOT to do a study.”

He also visited Green River, Price, and Helper. The California Zephyr runs across Utah and is aware of these towns. Green River has a population just under 1,000 and boasts an Amtrak station.

The Executive Director of Utah Rail Passengers Association is a real fan of public transportation. He got rid of his automobile in 2017 and uses bicycles and public transportation exclusively to get around.