After delays due to steel and concrete shortages, construction is moving “full steam ahead” on the 300 North bike and pedestrian bridge, said Jon Larsen, director of the Transportation Division for Salt Lake City.
Originally, the city had hoped the bridge would be finished this summer, but now it looks like it won’t be finished until summer 2023, “probably around the time school gets out,” Larsen said.
The no-car bridge, which will take pedestrians and cyclists safely up and over the train tracks at approximately 500 West, will form an important east-west connection, Larsen said.
Currently, students of West High School and residents of the Fairpark and Rose Park neighborhoods often use 300 North to access downtown, but a stopped train can block the tracks for 30 minutes to an hour. To go around the obstacle, the North Temple bridge is a half-mile away and 600 North is a “frightening connection” for bikes and pedestrians, he said.
For West High students who are late to class, they may feel the only option is to climb between the cars of a stopped train, which Larsen said happens frequently.
But the point where 300 North crosses the train tracks is particularly dangerous due to its location near a switching yard. As trains are disconnected and reconnected, and loaded and unloaded, they can lurch forward or backward suddenly, Larsen said, making it particularly hazardous to climb on the connections between train cars.
“We don’t want kids in that situation,” he said, “and so this bridge will solve that problem.”
Larsen said that knowing you can cross the tracks anytime along 300 North on a safe, comfortable bridge will be “huge” for the surrounding neighborhoods.
What will the bridge look like?
Modeled after a bridge in Portland, Ore., the project will be “quite an attractive bridge,” Larsen said.
It will have a mini plaza at each end with stairs and elevators (contained in glass towers) to get up to the span that crosses the tracks. An integrated snowmelt system will keep the bridge free of ice and snow. And along the side of the stairs will be a narrow track that bicyclists can set their wheels in and then push their bikes smoothly up the stairs.
The project manager is a “big-time bike enthusiast,” Larsen said, who “really put a lot of thought and effort into every little detail to try and make it be a great experience for our users.”
Unlike the North Temple bridge, pedestrians and bicyclists won’t be required to use the 300 North bridge. If a train isn’t blocking the tracks, users will be able to choose between using the bridge and crossing the tracks on the ground on the sidewalk or in the bike lanes. Cars will still have to wait for trains to pass.
How was the bridge funded?
The 300 North bridge was funded through several partnerships, including with the Utah Department of Transportation, the Wasatch Front Regional Council and the Union Pacific railroad, which contributed approximately $500,000 to the project, Larsen said.
The Utah Transit Authority, which is managing the project, applied for a federal grant that will go toward the project, as well as improvements to the new Folsom Trail near North Temple.
He added that the city is exploring applying for another grant, one to build bridges where the Folsom Trail crosses the train tracks at 600 West and 800 West.