Sugar House construction: What to expect this year, and what’s coming next

Salt Lake City is working on three pedestrian-first projects in the area in 2023.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Three big construction projects are coming to Sugar House this year, with walkability and pedestrian safety at the heart of planning, Salt Lake City transportation engineer Lynn Jacob said.

Three big construction projects are coming to Sugar House this year, with walkability and pedestrian safety at the heart of planning, Salt Lake City transportation engineer Lynn Jacob said.

Though orange cones and traffic detours will clog the neighborhood’s critical arteries this year, officials argue the end result will be traffic-calming projects that ultimately “enhance the Sugar House character.”

What’s coming this year?

The first project to start construction is Phase 1 of the 1100 East/Highland Drive revamp, which broke ground on Feb. 21.

The project aims to add a multi-use path on the west side of the roadway and bike lanes, along with additional landscaping, according to its website. Crews will also repave the roadway and upgrade old sewer, water and storm drain infrastructure.

“It won’t just be the scenario where it is now, where the bikes have to be on the sidewalk and there are scooters on the sidewalk,” said Levi Thatcher, a board member of local advocacy organization Sweet Streets who previously served as the transportation chair of the Sugar House Community Council.

“It’ll have a much wider space for pedestrians, bikes and scooters,” he said, “which will be amazing.”

While under construction, Highland Drive has been reduced to a single, one-way southbound lane between Wilmington Avenue and 2700 South.

Northbound traffic will be diverted to 1300 East and 900 East at Wilmington Avenue and 2700 South through the end of 2023.

Next year, that detour will shift north to 2100 South as construction progresses — since the second half of the project, which will extend from 2100 South to Wilson Ave, is planned for 2024.

(1100 East/Highland Drive website) A graphic showing the improvements to 1100 E/Highland Drive from I-80 to 2100 S.

The major roadway 2100 South is getting its own major facelift in 2024; the final concept for the roadway’s redesign will be released in about a month, Jacobs said.

Meanwhile, two other traffic-calming projects will begin construction near 2100 South this year: the “Slow Down West Sugar House” project and the McClelland Shared Street plan.

The west Sugar House project will stretch from 2100 South to 2700 South, and from 500 East to 700 East.

As part of the plan, crews will construct five “speed cushions” on 600 East, which are essentially speed bumps that include gaps, which allow emergency vehicles and bikes to avoid going over the hump.

Five speed humps will also be constructed — one each on Simpson Avenue, Warnock Avenue, Commonwealth Avenue, Elm Avenue, and Wilmington Avenue.

The city may also construct three additional speed humps on Stringham Avenue, Driggs Avenue and another on Wilmington Avenue, if construction costs allow.

Near the McClelland Trail, traffic-calming treatments will also be implemented to slow traffic where the trail meets neighborhood streets between 1100 East to 1300 East. These changes will include narrowing streets, widening park strips and repurposing street parking on Harrison, Browning, Roosevelt, Emerson, Kensington, and Bryan Avenues.

More of these treatments will be implemented where the trail intersects with the heart of Sugar House, along McClelland Street from 2100 South to Sugarmont Avenue. The first phase of construction in this area will focus on creating more outdoor dining, additional landscaping and other designs conducive to low-speed travel.

“It’s intended to make the street a lot slower for people who are driving, but a lot more comfortable for people who are walking,” Jacobs said. “It’s not a ton of money, and it’s not very impactful in terms of construction, but it will make a big difference in how the community functions.”

(McClelland Shared Street Concept Plan) Mockups of what traffic-calming treatments may come to McClelland Street between 2100 South and Sugarmont Avenue.

Why these construction projects?

Street treatments like these were recommended in the city’s Livable Streets program, which highlighted an area of Sugar House near Fairmont Park as one of the city’s most crash-dense regions.

Programs like Livable Streets and the recently announced “Vision Zero” task force aim to calm traffic and improve the overall safety, livability, and attractiveness of streets in Salt Lake City through data-driven recommendations, officials said.

Some of the planned changes also stem from recommendations in the 2020 Local Link Circulation Study, which focused on improving connections between Sugar House, Holladay, Millcreek and South Salt Lake. The Salt Lake City Council adopted the study last year.

The city then takes these recommendations from various sources and implements them during the design process, Jacobs said, which can take about a year.

The final designs also incorporate improvements in accordance with “Complete Streets,” an ordinance that requires city streets to be designed, operated, and maintained for all modes of traffic, including pedestrians and bicyclists.

“We in Sugar House, we started rebuilding over 20 years ago, and I will be the first to say that I don’t think we got it all right,” said Salt Lake City Councilwoman Amy Fowler, who represents Sugar House in District 7.

“It is a pain when we have to deal with the construction and deal with different roadways,” she continued. “We are growing — I don’t want to say we’ve doubled in size, but it feels that way. And these projects ... they really are focused on being people-forward.”

What’s next?

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Three big construction projects are coming to Sugar House this year, with walkability and pedestrian safety at the heart of planning, Salt Lake City transportation engineer Lynn Jacob said.

All of these projects rely on philosophies from the Sugar House Master Plan — the backbone of all development in the neighborhood, which was last updated in 2005.

The plan provides basic principles for improvements to Sugar House, and newer studies work hand-in-hand with the master plan to recommend construction design, Jacobs said.

“For all three of these big corridors in Sugarhouse, we’ve really done a lot of work to try to improve the walkability and bikeability, and just how people can get around on those roadways, and that’s driven primarily by that master plan,” Jacobs said.

The Salt Lake City Council will consider adopting another new study — the Local Link Transit Study — in the coming weeks. That study recommends enhanced bus service along Highland Drive from 2100 South to Murray Holladay Road in the next five years, with a long-term transition to a streetcar that would connect Sugar House to parts of South Salt Lake, Millcreek and Holladay in 10 or more years.

If all four cities adopt this approach, the study’s team will work with the Utah Transit Authority and the Wasatch Front Regional Council to incorporate it into their long-term transportation plans.

“I think that’s what will be so nice — when we have more of this designated walk-, bike-, transit-oriented type of construction — that the streets aren’t just made for cars; that we’re really looking at people-forward experiences,” Fowler said of what’s to come in Sugar House.

“What I’m looking forward to is people parking their cars — or not even taking their cars — but utilizing these new roadways that we’re creating where people can walk, bike, scoot, — whatever mode of transportation — and just stop and smell the sugar beets,” Fowler continued. “Just smell the roses and really enjoy what we have here.”

First, though, it will take a construction overhaul to get there.

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