Conservative Lawmakers See Dollar Signs in Mass Transit

frontrunnerAn apparent thaw of attitudes toward mass transit took place Tuesday on Capitol Hill as some conservatives saw dollar signs in expansion of the Wasatch Front’s rail system.

Representative Jacob Anderegg (Republican – Lehi) seemed downright giddy to speak about expanding rail service in Utah County and up canyons leading to ski resorts, while testifying before the Utah International Relations and Trade Commission.

“Legislators need to see the opportunities of mass transit and how it can reduce the number of cars on the road,” Anderegg told the committee, adding that “if I am trying to justify mass transit from the standpoint of ‘how much am I subsidizing per rider’ it is not something that is going to fly with a conservative. So we change the message completely and say ‘here are the number of jobs we have brought to the state because of the opportunities of mass transit and the access to mass transit, I can sell that – that is a game changer.”

The self-proclaimed conservative lawmaker saw the light after participating in a self-funded trip to Switzerland.

At the core of Anderegg’s change of heart toward rail appears to be the ability to potentially attract a Swiss rail company, Stradler, Rail to set up a manufacturing plant in Utah if policy makers demonstrate a general interest in supporting mass transit. The state could potentially purchase specialized engines designed by Stradler to climb steep grades, such as those presented by Little Cottonwood Canyon. Anderegg came to this conclusion after meeting with Stradler’s President and CEO, Peter Spuhler, during the trip.

Anderegg also informed the committee that Utah is in the running for the plant, directly competing with Dallas – something that would have not happened if the European trip had not occurred, adding that Switzerland is “flush with capital, and looking to do business in the United States.”

Senator Mark Madsen (Republican – Saratoga Springs), who also participated in the trip to Switzerland, noted that Utah’s effort to grow international business relationships have largely been coincidental, with happenstance meetings. Though this has been effective for the state to date, both Madsen and Anderegg called for more organized efforts.

Madsen would close by making a call for his fellow legislators to reevaluate the road versus rail dynamic in the state and encouraged potential growth in areas “where it made sense.”

Note: This article has been updated to show that Representative Anderegg and Senator Madsen participated in a self funded trip. We had erroneously reported that it was part of a trip sponsored by UTA.

2 Replies to “Conservative Lawmakers See Dollar Signs in Mass Transit

  1. It’s simply repulsive to see “fiscally responsible” lawmakers such Madsen and Anderegg pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into rail when clearly the demand and need is for the expansion of bus service. Nearly 20,000 people have signed online petitions asking increases in late night and weekend service. Building more rail isn’t answer, putting more buses on the roads, and more frequent trains is the answer — and it can be done at a fraction of the cost.

  2. I hope that manufacturing plant wouldn’t be anywhere along the Wasatch front. We have enough bad air from manufacturing plants in this valley every winter. Bringing another one in seems like a step in the wrong direction to me.

    I’m all for bringing them to Utah, but let’s make sure it’s in a geographic location that doesn’t trap in all those harmful chemicals.

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