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S.L. City Council discussed proposed bike lanes, changes for Sunnyside Avenue

Published May 28, 2013 7:03 pm

SLC Council • Proposed budget sees permanent isolated bike lane; Sunnyside Avenue facelift wouldn't include reduction in auto lanes.
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Bicyclists and Sunnyside Avenue residents take heart, there is money in Salt Lake City's proposed budget for you — and nobody is using the words "road diet."

Every dollar counts in what's shaping up to be an annual budget that's so tight the City Council seems to be sweating nickels and dimes.

But Mayor Ralph Becker — who announced earlier this would be the "year of the bike" — has proposed spending $1.2 million to begin implementing a "cycle track" network downtown.

A cycle track is a bicycle lane that is isolated from auto traffic. The city conducted a pilot cycle track project last year on 300 East. The new proposal contemplates a permanent cycle track on 200 West from North Temple to 900 South, among other routes, said Robin Hutcheson, director of transportation.

It's the first step toward creating a cycle track network in the city — a project that would require years to build out. Hutcheson invited public input for potential routes at bikeslc.com.

But cycle track isn't the only interesting item under "transportation" in the proposed $213 million budget for fiscal year 2013-14 that begins July 1.

Becker also outlined $350,000 for Sunnyside Avenue to bring the east-west arterial into his "Complete Streets" initiative. That program seeks to make roadways safer for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

That funding proposal is separate from funds allocated to pave and stripe the boulevard that runs from 1300 East to Hogle Zoo.

In the spring of 2012, residents and commuters howled when the mayor proposed a test "road diet" on Sunnyside. In the end, four council members blocked it, setting up a face-off with the mayor.

But tempers have cooled and most council members appear to support such things as traffic-calming planters in the median and crosswalks equipped with pedestrian-activated "hawk lights." There will be no auto-lane reduction, Hutcheson said.

Nonetheless, City Councilwoman Jill Remington Love wondered aloud if the Sunnyside proposal was the best use of city money when many Salt Lake City streets need repair.

But Councilman Charlie Luke, who represents the Sunnyside area, said it makes sense to spend the money on the busy boulevard.

"If we go naming every crumbling street, we'd be here all week. We're left arguing over table scraps," he said referring to the city's Capital Improvements Budget.

Council members Soren Simonsen and Luke Garrott said Capital Improvements has shrunk from 9 percent of the city's budget to less than 6 percent as the mayor has navigated tough economic times without raising property taxes.

"We've been using the Capital Improvements fund for several years to balance the budget," Simonsen said in an interview. "Catching up with the capital improvements isn't possible without additional revenues," he said in a not-so-oblique reference to a future property tax increase.

csmart@sltrib.com