How these Salt Lake County communities plan to make streets more walkable

Wasatch Front Regional Council awarded $850,000 for eight projects ranging from Copperton and Holladay to Midvale and Salt Lake City.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) People cross 300 West in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, between 900 South and 2100 South, an area undergoing a major redesign to make it more bike and pedestrian friendly.

The idea of expanding transportation options in southwestern Salt Lake County has been around for years.

Now, with the once-bedroom communities of Herriman and Copperton, for example, growing, even booming, the transportation plans are becoming outdated.

In Midvale, the hope for a revitalization of its historic Main Street didn’t materialize for years.

In Salt Lake City’s Ballpark neighborhood, where big-box stores are now being surrounded by more housing and smaller businesses, the zoning doesn’t always reflect the area’s change.

All this requires planning. Years of it. But awards from the Wasatch Front Regional Council, through its Transportation and Land Use Connection program, could ease the process.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

The council awarded nearly $850,000 total to eight transportation projects in the Salt Lake Valley to help with updates to ordinances, and plans for walkable and bikeable streets and station areas. The selected municipalities made combined matches of around $174,000 for the projects. The council partnered with Salt Lake County, the Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Transit Authority to provide technical assistance for the proposals.

“We can certainly expect across all of these projects, in some way, to enhance the quality of life for those cities,” said Megan Townsend, the council’s community and economic development director, “whether it’s being more walkable, or providing more access to opportunities by addressing different modes of transportation.”

A look at what’s planned in these suburbs

The projects include plans for bike and pedestrian lanes in Copperton and a path along Interstate 215 that could also be used for walking and biking in Holladay. There would also be a transit corridor and land use study in Herriman and a Central Pointe Station area plan in South Salt Lake, which would look at connectivity and surrounding land uses.

There’s a Historic Main Street urban design project for Midvale, and two projects in Salt Lake City; one for zoning amendments and another for a plan that would include strategies for pedestrian connections in the 1300 East area.

The council also dedicated a grant for a joint plan in Bluffdale, Herriman, Riverton and West Jordan that would involve new opportunities for trails, water quality and wildlife preservation on creek drainages and corridors.

Some of these projects could be completed in a few years; others lay the foundation for results that could take decades, said Townsend. “The idea is creating a complete network, so that those things don’t happen in a vacuum.”

The projects that could see faster results are those related to ordinances. Copperton’s plan is one of them.

The $65,000 proposal has two parts. One is a connectivity ordinance to preserve the township’s existing gridded street network.

“Copperton has this really great preserved grid street network. And so that allows a lot of alternative routes for people to travel to get from point A to point B,” said Kayla Mauldin, senior long-range planner for the Greater Salt Lake Municipal Services District. “It preserves that small-town community feel and allows everyone to live close to the community amenities, such as the park or the Lions Club.”

The ordinance would ask developers to follow the same grid pattern, so growth doesn’t interrupt the community’s character.

The second part is a transportation plan looking at infrastructure for walking and biking connections, planning to add a multiple-use path to TRAX lines located in South Jordan’s Daybreak.

As the township grows — and given that more than 30% of Copperton residents are under age 18, many of whom probably don’t have a driver license — Mauldin explained, “providing forms of walking and biking can help give them the autonomy they need to access their daily needs.”

A peek at plans for Salt Lake City

Another ordinance proposal is an update of the current land use plan and zoning along 300 West in Salt Lake City, which received $150,000 from the council and Salt Lake City. The area hosts light industrial operations, but, through the years, it has morphed as smaller businesses and new housing emerge.

“The zoning really isn’t conducive to that change. And while the city invested money to basically completely reinvent the street by adding the protected bike lanes and improving the sidewalks and pedestrian experience,” Nick Norris, Salt Lake City planning director, said, “we want to follow that so that the land use regulations mirror that change, and help promote more people getting around by means other than the car.”

The project also would support the implementation of a plan for the Ballpark Station.

The ultimate goal is for the corridor to be a mixed-use area that shifts from an auto-oriented street to a place with grade-separated bike paths, wider sidewalks and other pedestrian improvements.

The Salt Lake City plan on 1300 East joins other transportation improvement efforts in the area. The city also received federal funds and is launching an environmental study for bike and pedestrian lanes on 1300 East between 2100 South and 3300 South. There is an open house to review the city’s proposal from Wednesday, April 20, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Highland Park Elementary School.

In addition, $215,000 is destined to plan Midvale’s Historic Main Street’s change into an art, food and cultural district with a food truck plaza, year-round festival lighting and green space.

“We’ll be doing streetscape design, which will help enhance pedestrian access and dining options along Main Street,” newly minted Mayor Marcus Stevenson said. “As we get restaurants in there, we want to be able to have outside dining along the street there. And so this is something that’s going to help us plan and design for that.”

This project would also include a design concept for signs and a parking strategy, which would balance the availability of enough parking spots and the walkability of Main Street.

“It’s just been talked about for a long time. But we’re really in this place where all these puzzle pieces are kind of coming together,” Stevenson said. “In the next few years, I think Main Street is going to start to look a lot different.”

Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.