Tuesday, October 09, 2007

South Salt Lakers favor streetcar link

By Cathy McKitrick The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated:09/27/2007 01:23:47 AM MDT

SOUTH SALT LAKE - A modern streetcar system - which would cost $36 million to build - emerged as the local favorite to traverse the east-west corridor connecting this central Salt Lake Valley city to the popular east-side Sugar House commercial district. And the old rail line formerly used to haul freight along 2250 South - the Utah Transit Authority now owns that 2-mile right-of-way - got best marks as the preferred route for the streetcars. Such were the preliminary findings of an alternatives analysis study conducted for UTA by Fehr and Peers, a transportation consulting firm with offices in California, Salt Lake City and Denver. At Wednesday's South Salt Lake City Council session, UTA Project Manager GJ LaBonty presented the locally preferred alternative, selected through an extended public process where many options were considered, including light-rail, streetcar, rapid bus and vintage trolleys. "We're here tonight to tell you what we came up with," LaBonty said. "Streetcar and trolley were highly favored and met most of the needs." At the urging of community leaders in South Salt Lake and Salt Lake City, UTA pursued the study in hopes of tapping federal funds to help construct the project. Early on, stakeholders from the two cities outlined the corridor's transit needs: slow speeds, frequent stops, walkability, an urban linear park, creative funding, broad community support and integration with the larger area transit system. Response from two well-attended open houses conveyed public opposition to light-rail because of its faster speeds and fewer stops. Residents also objected to diesel-powered vehicles traveling through their backyards, LaBonty said. The often-congested, narrow 2100 South - which currently serves as a UTA bus route - also failed to meet the study's criteria in terms of pedestrian orientation and room for expansion, LaBonty said. But some in attendance Wednesday spoke out against the study's recommendations. "We were told it would be a rubber-tire mode on asphalt and now it's a metal wheel on rail," said Dick Stucki, who owns property next to the old rail line. Stucki asked the council to consider installing sound walls to preserve the peace and quiet of the neighborhood. Councilman Mike Rutter extolled the virtues of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which would cost only about $18 million to build. "I was very impressed by the rubber-tire system in Eugene [Oregon]," Rutter said, adding he had recently seen it first-hand. Council members voted to delay endorsing UTA's locally preferred alternative until the final draft of the study comes out next month. The Salt Lake City Council will need to sign on as well. If a mass-transit project has City Council support, it stands a better chance to compete for federal dollars, said David Carlson, city attorney for South Salt Lake. cmckitrick@sltrib.com * For more information, visit UTA's Web site: www.rideuta.com/projects/sugarhouseTransitStudy

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