West-side residents rally in protest of UDOT’s proposed I-15 expansion

The Rose Park Brown Berets hosted a bicycle cruise Saturday to rally against an expansion of I-15.

Bicycle bells rang and music played in the Rose Park Elementary parking lot as residents from across Salt Lake City’s west side rallied against the expansion of Interstate 15.

The Utah Department of Transportation’s proposed expansion would stretch from Farmington’s Shepard Lane to Salt Lake City’s 400 South. The department estimated that an I-15 expansion would cost about $1.6 billion, which the Legislature initially has approved.

Although property acquisitions are uncertain at this point, the project would likely impact 24 residential properties in Salt Lake City, along with three commercial ones and a historic building. For most places along the corridor, UDOT favored an expansion that would include five general lanes, an express lane and an auxiliary lane in certain areas in each direction.

Saturday’s event featured a bicycle cruise of over 20 residents, complete with signs taped to the bikes reading “Youth vs. UDOT,” and “Don’t pave over us,” to bring awareness that the community doesn’t want the expansion, Cantua said, and the impacts that come with it.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

“Throughout history, expansions do displace a lot of people — especially people of color,” said Qiru Cantua, a member of the Rose Park Brown Berets, who organized the event. “Looking at the map of the highway, we saw there were a couple spots that we personally know and care about from our personal lives. ... There’s other solutions other than freeway expansions, because they don’t work.”

When Salt Lake City’s segment of the freeway was initially constructed in 1959, it also forced residents from their homes — some of whom may have to relocate again due to another expansion.

“It’s racist,” Cantua said. “... It’s a history that we always keep having to explain over and over again, and we’re tired of it. And this is just one of the ways that we want to bring awareness and build solidarity with the community and to continue the work.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Qiru Cantua of the Rose Park Brown Berets and members of the west side community gather in the Rose Park Elementary parking lot to protest against the proposed Interstate 15 expansion on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023. The gathering was followed up by a bicycle cruise through the neighborhood to bring awareness to the impacts the expansion would bring.

The next step in UDOT’s process is a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which will be released this fall. The statement will include more details on impacts and further analysis of the project, and will include a public hearing and comment period.

Joey Rios, a resident of Rose Park all his life, said the proposed expansion would threaten many areas full of his childhood memories.

“It will tear down our homes — a lot of people’s homes — and all the pollution in the air will make everybody sick,” Rio said to the crowd. “... [Right now] the area’s very nice, pretty calm throughout the day — not construction, like every other city at the moment. That’s what I love most about it – it’s beautiful.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Rose Park Brown Berets and west side community members roll through the neighborhood on a bicycle cruise to protest against the proposed Interstate 15 expansion on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023.

— Tribune reporter Alixel Cabrera contributed to this story.