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Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker talks about a new... (Steve Griffin / The Salt Lake Tribune)

A slow-sliding streetcar connecting Sugar House with TRAX could be ferrying passengers in three years, and the line eventually may swing north to Westminster College and the University of Utah.

In a status update Friday, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, South Salt Lake Mayor Bob Gray and Utah Transit Authority board member Keith Bartholomew stood on the corner of McClelland Street and Sugarmont Drive -- the initial end of the line -- to announce the $40 million to $50 million project is "on or ahead of schedule."

The two cities and UTA will spend the next year deciding whether to pursue federal dollars or local funding, followed by a two-year construction timeline. The planned streetcar, stopping every two blocks,

Sugar House streetcar
would run along a two-mile stretch of 2300 South between the Central Pointe TRAX station on 200 West and McClelland at 1045 East. Blueprints call for enough space alongside the streetcar for a pedestrian and bicycle trail.

"We want this to be a valley project," said Gray, predicting the car will salve congestion in Sugar House and South Salt Lake. "Something that will pull the community and entire valley together."

A 2007 study estimated daily ridership on the line at 2,300 people. The construction plan includes a single track -- a streetcar would appear every 15 minutes -- with potential for a double track if demand increases.

UTA completed a preliminary review last year that concluded streetcars, rather than light

rail or historic trolleys, were the best option.

Salt Lake City Councilman Soren Simonsen, who joined the mayors Friday, said the line someday could extend east to neighborhoods hugging the Sugar House business district as well as north to Westminster and the U.

"It will be fantastic," said Scott Clark, who owns a vehicle-detailing and storage shop within earshot of the final stop across from Fairmont Park. "All the Sugar House businesses should benefit."

Bartholomew also told a neighbor who stopped by the news conference on her bicycle that the streetcar's impact on property values would be "substantially positive."

"You might think of this as your alternative 401(k)," he said.

The officials predicted an uptick in commercial development along the line, noting retail density tends to follow streetcars in cities such as San Diego and Portland, Ore. And Bartholomew said the addition could transform the surrounding neighborhoods into "some of the most exciting in the region."

In two weeks, Becker plans to sponsor a resolution at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Providence, R.I., calling on Congress to streamline the funding process for streetcars nationwide. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, already has placed a cash request for the Sugar House project.

"We're hoping," Becker said, "that Congress will accelerate the investments."