UDOT announces safety enhancements after cars kill 3 near new homeless center

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A man stands in the road as traffic passes on 3300 South near the Road Home's South Salt Lake Men's Resource Center in South Salt Lake on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019.

After cars killed three men near the new homeless resource center in South Salt Lake in the two months since it opened, highway officials said Monday they have begun to install safety improvements.

Over the weekend, the Utah Department of Transportation installed new electronic message signs to urge drivers to be cautious and alert for pedestrians along 3300 South near 1000 West.

After news stories about the problems, UDOT and South Salt Lake also announced plans Monday for numerous other upgrades coming over the next several months, including:

• A new pedestrian-activated signal to stop traffic for pedestrians to cross.

• Additional lighting at nearby intersections and along the road.

• Relocation of a nearby bus stop.

• New portable signs to alert drivers of their speed.

• Safety-focused outreach to clients at the homeless resource center.

• Ongoing coordination by UDOT with South Salt Lake law enforcement and public works.

“I am extremely satisfied with UDOT’s response,” said South Salt Lake City Council member Corey Thomas, who pushed for the improvements. She said warning signs were installed shortly after she met with top UDOT officials Friday.

“I am forever grateful to UDOT and all their efforts to make my city safer,” she said.

UDOT spokesman John Gleason said, “Any time you have a serious or fatal crash, we do a comprehensive analysis of the area to see if there are engineering solutions that could improve safety."

He added, “Where we have had three fatal accidents there near the homeless resource center after it opened two months ago, we have to take action. We have to do whatever we can to ensure safety in that area.”

The first fatal accident happened just weeks after the 300-bed men’s shelter opened its doors Nov. 5, when a driver killed a man on 3300 South who was within 100 feet of the crosswalk at 900 West, police said.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A man stands in the road as traffic passes on 3300 South near the Road Home's South Salt Lake Men's Resource Center in South Salt Lake on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019.

On Christmas Day, a car hit and killed a man in a wheelchair who was attempting to cross near 300 West. And on Dec. 28, 67-year-old Duane Nebeker (the only one of the men whose name has been publicly released) was killed while walking across six lanes of traffic on 3300 South near 1000 West.

Police believe all three were homeless and seeking shelter at the new resource center. Each crash happened at night, during low-visibility hours, and “in an area not controlled by a crosswalk or any crossing device," said Gary Keller, a spokesman with the South Salt Lake Police Department. “So that’s a big problem.”

The need for safety improvements in this area — which is located outside the transit free fare zone and away from Salt Lake City’s hub of homeless services — has long been known to South Salt Lake officials. In a draft permit outlining rules for how the homeless shelter would operate, the city noted that the bus stop near the shelter on the north side of 3300 South had no controlled pedestrian crossing.

And one block east, at the intersection of 3300 South and 900 West, is “the highest incidence of auto/pedestrian casualties in South Salt Lake City,” the city noted.

“South Salt Lake has known this is a dangerous street from the beginning,” said Michelle Flynn, interim executive director of The Road Home, which operates the resource center.

The city’s permit called on Shelter the Homeless, which owns the center, to identify and recommend to clients safe routes to the facility from the Utah Transit Authority bus stop and to work with UDOT to put in a lighted crosswalk at 3300 South and 1000 West “as soon as practicable.”

Preston Cochrane, executive director of Shelter the Homeless, said the organization had originally painted a crosswalk on 1000 West but was required to remove it “because it’s not our road and UDOT said they needed to do a street study and traffic study before that could happen.”