North or East? Sugar House Streetcar looking for direction
By Christopher Smart
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Apr 22 2013 01:01AM
Officials say it’s a certainty that the soon-to-open Sugar House Streetcar line will eventually continue from its McClelland Avenue terminus to Highland Drive (1100 East) and then north two blocks to 2100 South. The question is: then where?
Mayor Ralph Becker wants the line’s next segment to run north on 1100 East to 1700 South. That alignment is preferred by the city’s consultant, Fehr & Peers, because, according to its data, the route would provide the highest ridership.
But City Council members Soren Simonsen and Charlie Luke want it to turn east at the Highland Drive intersection and run up 2100 South to 1700 East. They cite high bus ridership figures from the Utah Transit Authority and say that route would be most used.
Residents and business owners can weigh in on the proposed alignments at a public hearing 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 451 S. State, Room 315. The first segment of the line from the TRAX Central Pointe Station (200 West) to McClelland Avenue (1050 East) at about 2250 South should open in January.
Either one of the proposed extensions from the intersection at 2100 South and Highland Drive would be short. But both camps see it determining how the streetcar would serve the east Salt Lake City area when the line expands farther.
Becker’s administration envisions a prospective route running north on 1100 East to 900 South, where it could jog west to the corner of 900 South and 900 East. It could then continue north to connect with TRAX at 900 East and 400 South.
But Simonsen believes a better alignment would go up 2100 South and eventually connect with Foothill Drive. Under his scenario, the streetcar line would then proceed north on Foothill and connect to TRAX at the University of Utah.
No time frame or funding mechanism have been identified for either scenario.
City Council Chairman Kyle LaMalfa agrees with the administration that 1100 East is the better route because it would support the local business community without adding automobile traffic.
"The businesses on 1100 East are the kind of service businesses that do not require a car: salons, cafes, dance and yoga studios, a post office," he wrote to the Tribune. "By extending a streetcar on 1100 East, we preserve the character of the Sugar House community."
According to the Becker administration, such an alignment also would serve Westminster College at 1700 South and 1300 East.
But Luke, who represents Council District 6, which abuts Sugar House, calls the 1100 East alignment "the streetcar to nowhere," because it ends at "no real destination."
By contrast, a line extending east on 2100 South to 1700 East would connect to Sugar House Park and Highland High School, he said.
"The biggest shortcoming [of the administration’s analysis] is that the park wasn’t factored in," Luke said. "Sugar House Park is much different than other parks in the community because it is busy year-round."
Simonsen, who represents Sugar House, said his constituents overwhelmingly have told him they support the streetcar line being extended up 2100 South.
"There is much stronger support to go east," he said. "And 1100 East is a dead end [at 800 South]."
But a spokesman for Becker said the administration selected the 1100 East extension proposal after a rigorous and thorough process.
"This is not an opinion contest or an emotional decision," said Art Raymond. "We have a professional analysis, public outreach and citizen advocacy."
In the end, Raymond said, "A streetcar is pedestrian-friendly mass transit and 1100 East is pedestrian friendly. Twenty First South isn’t."