On a typical lunch hour, the cars start lining up on 2100 South near 1300 East, outside the Chick-fil-A.
The cars — sometime six deep or more — stop in the right eastbound lane of the Sugar House street, waiting to turn into a loop around the chicken restaurant’s small parking lot.
Based on the responses of an informal call for submissions on Twitter and Facebook, the Sugar House fast-food outlet is well known for its regular traffic jams.
Bryant Heath, an engineer who photographs Salt Lake City streets for his @slsees Instagram feed, noted on Twitter that a power outage in Sugar House last August forced the Chick-fil-A to close — and it was one of the few times (other than Sundays, when the chain is famously closed) that there wasn’t a line of cars spilling out onto 2100 South.
Jon Larsen, transportation division director for Salt Lake City, said the city has received more complaints about the Sugar House Chick-fil-A than any other drive-thru. He said the city hopes the company’s improvements to the site will help lessen the problem.
“One of our traffic engineers spent some time actually working with some folks from Chick-fil-A’s management here, and some of their corporate staff,” he said. “Basically, it would just mean moving the entrance or the curb cut, just to be able to store more of the vehicles onsite. Nothing’s final yet, but it’s encouraging that they want to be good neighbors.”
(In late February, the website Building Salt Lake — founded by former Salt Lake City Council member Luke Garrott and former Salt Lake Tribune reporter Taylor Anderson to cover the city’s construction and traffic issues — reported that Chick-fil-A was working with the city “to change up its drive-thru configuration to stop snarling vehicular traffic.”)
According to responses to our social-media prompts, the Chick-fil-A is not the only drive-thru in Utah with traffic problems.
“The Iceberg Drive-In at 3900 South and 900 East has been a mess for decades,” said one Facebook respondent — a sentiment echoed by others on Facebook and Twitter.
Three locations of Nielsen’s Frozen Custard — at 3918 S. Highland Dr. in Holladay, 3779 S. Jordan Parkway in South Jordan, and 570 W. 2600 South in Bountiful — all received mentions for their drive-thrus.
Dirty soda drive-thrus were mentioned more than a few times, including two branches of Swig — 2330 E. 3300 South in Salt Lake City and 5575 S. 900 East in Murray — and Thirst Drinks at 38 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City.
State Street, the backbone of Salt Lake County, is home to several drive-thrus our respondents called out.
Heath noted the Taco Time on 3900 South and State is unusual “not because of the length of the queue but because the drive thru ordering is, literally right next to the sidewalk. If only two people want to order at the same time, it backs up traffic on State!”
Other State Street locations that earned mentions in our social-media replies: The Sonic Drive-In at 1300 South, and two recently opened chicken joints: Raising Cane’s at 2150 S. State and the Famous Dave’s Quick ‘Cue at 2435 S. State. (To be fair to State Street, another Twitter user mentioned the Raising Cane’s at 3788 W. 11400 in South Jordan for its traffic jams.)
Another State Street drive-thru — Bjorn’s Brew, at 2165 S. State (across the street from the Raising Cane’s) — was one of several coffee outlets that received mentions. Others, all in Salt Lake City, were: Java Jo’s at 401 1st Ave.; Starbucks at 421 E. 400 South; Caffé Expresso at 902 S. 1100 East, and Red Moose at 1693 S. 900 East.
Other honorable mentions:
In-n-Out Burger, 475 N. 700 West, Centerville.
Chick-Fil-A, 540 N. 800 West, Centerville.
Del Taco, 809 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City.
Sobe Eats, 120 W. 9000 South, Sandy; and Arby’s, 129 W. 9000 South, Sandy (though ongoing road construction is a major factor on that street).
In-N-Out Burger, 795 E. 800 North, Spanish Fork.
Krispy Kreme, 417 W. 1300 South (University Parkway), Orem.
“Drive-thrus are such a tricky issue,” said Larsen. “Sometimes, no matter where you put them, they’re going to have some backups.”
The time to address the problem, Larsen said, is in the initial planning phase.
When the city’s planning and transportation divisions review a development, Larsen said, “we look at potential issues and problems, and try to work them out before they break ground.”
If you know of more drive-thrus that are troublesome — for customers or other drivers and pedestrians — let us know. Email your submissions to email@example.com, or tweet them to @voltarine.
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