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900 East under construction four years after rebuild

Published July 19, 2013 1:47 pm

Infrastructure • Crews dig up old streetcar ties between 1300 South and 1500 South.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It's the kind of thing that drives taxpayers nuts.

Although 900 East between 900 South and 1700 South was rebuilt four years ago, crews are tearing up and repaving segments of the street from 1300 South to 1500 South.

The reason: to remove 80-year-old streetcar ties buried beneath the street that could decay and degrade the roadway. Repairing it now will preclude more costly fixes later, according to City Hall spokesman Art Raymond.

But some residents in the neighborhood are skeptical.

"I wish they had done it four years ago when they had the road all torn up," said Dan Hull, who lives on 900 East. "I personally believe they didn't have to do it [now]. I wish they'd spent the money somewhere else."

The work comes just after the Salt Lake City Council boosted property taxes 13.8 percent to raise $8 million, citing, among other things, the dire condition of Salt Lake City streets. Some residents along 900 East are miffed because they believe their street was not in disrepair.

Resident Shelley Wismer said she can't make sense of it.

"If the city is so broke they have to raise taxes, why are we tearing up a perfectly good street to take up railroad ties that haven't been bothering anyone for 80 years?" she said. "It seems like a senseless waste of money."

Although the City Council can prioritize road repairs, it leaves many of the maintenance decisions to the administration, as is the case with this project.

There are some 150 miles of old streetcar infrastructure — including ties — beneath Salt Lake City streets. It's expensive to remove and usually isn't necessary, Raymond said.

"We leave the infrastructure intact because it almost never causes problems," he said. "But this time it did."

As the wooden ties decay, the roadway above them can sink. The city Engineering Division, which prioritizes such repairs, believed the roadway would degrade if the ties weren't removed, Raymond said. If the ties aren't removed all at once, it could mean endless repairs along the street and much more inconvenience for residents, he explained.

But some, like Hull, find it hard to see a problem between 1300 South and 1500 South.

"Four years ago, it started to ripple near 1700 South and they fixed it," he said of the tie removal. "But down here [in the 1300 South block], there was concrete above the ties and there was no ripple."

csmart@sltrib.com