Image via WikipediaPreviously I went over some ideas for future expansions of TRAX and streetcar lines (April 14th and 24th) once the 2015 projects are done. One area I did not go over was Front Runner beyond the Front Runner South line.
Once the Front Runner projects are completed and it is running from Payson to Brigham City, there will be little room for expansion. The most likely expansion of Front Runner commuter train service would be from Brigham City to Logan. However, the rail line would be at a disadvantage since the current main line of the Union Pacific travels out of the way to reach Logan. The train could overcome the route disadvantage since there would be few intermediate stops (one to serve the Tremonton area and the other south of Logan so with upgraded tracks the trains could operate at 79mph for extended periods.
Beyond an expansion to Logan there is two long term projects to be undertaken.
The first is to put in more double track were feasible. There is some bottle necks in the system that will take lots of funds to make this happen including several bridges that would have to be replaced. Secondly, part of the line through Davis and Weber counties is already butting up against homes so land would have to be acquired in some instances. However, as the line grows in importance double tracking will become more critical.
Finally, the line should be electrified in the long run. The ultimate solution would be to run EMU's along the route. EMU's can accelerate faster than a locomotive hauled train making the trip even faster than it is now. The downside is that the Federal Railway Administration's policy on rail car buff strength. The current requirements are so high that no off the shelf equipment is legal which means anything used in the United States cost more than any other country in the world.
One current problem may actually create a solution to this problem. With Diesel at all time highs, more cities may start looking toward electrifying their commuter railroads. If more cities would jump on the bandwagon and run EMU's, economies would kick in making it less expensive.
Front Runner will be the vital regional connector in our transportation future. We have only seen the tip of the iceburg on what it can do.