Officials on Friday celebrated the completion of a $5.9 million project to double track part of the Sugarhouse streetcar line to allow more frequent service. They were even more ebullient about how the streetcar is helping to transform the community around it.
“The S-Line has been a catalyst for economic development,” in a once ignored area along an abandoned freight train line, said Carlton Christensen, chairman of Utah Transit Authority Board.
“We’ve seen … that if we build it, housing and people would come to it,” said U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, who pushed for the double tracking when he was the mayor of Salt Lake County. His successor, Jenny Wilson, also hailed “revitalized communities due to rail… Everyone should hop on board and check it out.”
The streetcar line originally cost $26 million and was funded largely by federal grants. But it had only one track and streetcars could only pass each other at a of couple of stations, which limited service to no more than every 20 minutes.
Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake and UTA combined in the past year to add two blocks of double tracking between 300 East and 500 East. That will now allow streetcars to run every 15 minutes — and allow better connections with TRAX trains at its west end.
Since the line opened in 2013, Christensen said ridership has increased 60 percent to 1,300 average weekday boardings last year.
McAdams said the S-Line not only helps address transportation needs, but also helps attract much-needed affordable housing — and even grocery stores and other retail. And it allows people to devote more of their paychecks to housing and other expenses by using mass transit and not having a car payment.
“This really is becoming a complete and livable neighborhood,” McAdams said. “And a 15-minute interval along this line will only make it more so.”
It has helped South Salt Lake become “a desirable place to call home,” said Mayor Cherie Wood.
Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, predicted the S-Line is just the beginning of what will become a network of trolleys throughout the metro area.
Many have seen the development attracted by the S-Line, he said. “They like what is happening here and mass transit is the future.”