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Streetcar on 1100 East — Not so fast

Published November 16, 2013 9:37 pm

City Hall • Two city councilwomen-elect say they will revisit the plan.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

The Sugar House Streetcar is set to debut Dec. 8 — from the TRAX line at 200 West and 2100 South to McClelland Avenue in Sugar House — but the plan to extend the line north on 1100 East is anything but certain.

Two women elected to the Salt Lake City Council last week said the discussion of the controversial 1100 East plan is not over.

In May, the council voted in favor of a second phase alignment from 2100 South north on 1100 East to 1700 South by a split 4-3 vote. A new council could potentially change that.

Erin Mendenhall and Lisa Ramsey Adams will take office in January. They will replace Jill Remington Love, who supported the 1100 East extension, and Soren Simonsen, who did not.

"My concerns are less about the placement than about the lack of public support," Mendenhall said in a recent interview. "If we don't have public support, I don't know how we'll get funding."

Adams said during the fall campaign she found only one person in Sugar House's District 7 who supported the 1100 East alignment.

"A lot of people feel they weren't heard," Adams said Thursday. "I think it has to be revisited."

James Rogers, who was elected to fill the west-side District 1 seat of retiring Councilman Carlton Christensen — who did favor 1100 East — said he would have to study the proposed alignment further before weighing in.

Among her concerns, Mendenhall said, is the apparent lack of communication between the City Council and the administration of Mayor Ralph Becker. The council moved quickly to approve Becker's proposed 1100 East alignment because it believed the administration needed a "preferred route" in order to apply for a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant by June 30.

The consulting firm of Fehr & Peers had earlier identified 1100 East as its preferred route.

When the June 30 deadline passed, however, a spokesman for the mayor said it was never the intention of the administration to apply for federal funding in 2013. Rather, it will apply next year.

Construction costs of Phase 1 from 200 West to Sugar House — what UTA calls the "S Line" — carries a $37 million price tag. Of that, $26 million came from a federal TIGER grant.

Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake and the Utah Transit Authority kicked in the additional $11 million.

The planned extension along 1100 East from 2100 South to 1700 South would cost about $15.8 million, according to preliminary estimates.

That is in addition to the estimated $12.1 million it would cost to extend the streetcar line from its McClelland Avenue terminus to Highland Drive and then north to 2100 South.

Mendenhall said that even if Salt Lake City is successful in capturing a federal TIGER grant for that route, it most likely would need additional funding from local taxpayers to build it.

"I will raise the question of local funding … and work to embrace the conversation with the council and the community," she said.

Chairman Kyle LaMalfa said he, too, believes the 1100 East alignment will come up in City Council discussions.

But he continues to support the route and said that when Phase 1 opens next month, residents who now oppose the 1100 East route could have a change of heart when they see how well it works.

Mass transit will transform Sugar House into the "other downtown," LaMalfa said — one that is friendly to pedestrians and bicycles and less congested for motorists.

Sugar House resident Lori Leighton, who co-owns Boxing Is For Girls fitness center at 1983 S. 1100 East, said the proposed 1100 East alignment has virtually no support in the neighborhood.

Leighton, who along with business partner Eliza James led community protests against the route, said small businesses along narrow 1100 East would be decimated during many months of construction because customers would be unable to access them.

"This issue is not at all dead. People are talking about it," Leighton said. "We are fighting it still."

csmart@sltrib.com