SALT LAKE CITY — Almost a million dollars in federal funding is coming to Utah to look at ways to connect the University of Utah’s Research Park Campus and the emerging Innovation District in downtown Salt Lake City.
“They say there’s no more bipartisanship in Washington, but at least on this issue, we saw a lot of people cross party lines, Sen. Romney for example,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg told FOX 13 it was a team effort in Washington to get more funding into transportation alternatives. Included in the 2021 RAISE grants is $950,000 for the Utah Transit Authority.
“One of the reasons Salt Lake did so well, this grant is about designing for a future that gives people alternatives for how to get around," said Buttigieg. "This TechLink corridor idea, would look at how to add transit to the mix of ways people can move around the community. When you have good transit, if gives people a choice.”
This cycle saw about a ten-to-one ratio of requests to available dollars. The Techlink Corridor study is the only project in our state to receive funding from this program.
The project will examine transit connections and conduct alternatives analysis for a link between the two areas.
“We won’t see a project coming up out of the ground in the immediate future, but we will see a planning effort,” said Jennifer McGrath, Director, Research Park Programming at the University of Utah.
McGrath said they’re excited to see not only a more direct connection between the university and downtown, but also the potential for a connection between research park and the future innovation district. Connecting researchers and their work at the university and the companies that are spinning out of those research projects.
McGrath said having better public transit will attract more talent.
“Having that direct connection with transit is super valuable," McGrath added. "These healthcare tech innovation companies, these are the types of employees they’re attracting who care about living downtown, working in a downtown environment and being able to live either car free or car light.”
“We need all of the above to prepare people to make the most of opportunities so if you live in one part of town and you get a job in the other, you can get to where you need to be,” said Buttigieg.
McGrath added that the university is working with UTA and Salt Lake City’s Transportation and Redevelopment Agency as well. The Redevelopment agency currently owns the property which will be the future Innovation District.
Right now, Carl Arky with UTA said the organization is working on a timeline for the study.
Following President Biden's signature on a bipartisan infrastructure law last week, Buttigieg says 7 billion in funding will be added to the RAISE grants, which means future applications from Utah or anywhere else stand a better chance of getting done.