After an intense few months of debate, the Salt Lake City Council voted tonight in favor of a plan that will extend the route of the Sugar House Streetcar up 1100 East. The final vote tally was 4-3.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and many residents have been pushing for the extension for months, arguing that a streetcar along the popular stretch of road will bring in more visitors, increase foot traffic, and decrease vehicular traffic down the narrow two lane road that’s packed with local businesses.
But some residents and business owners aren’t too sure, and at a city council meeting a few weeks ago voiced strong opposition to potential traffic delays, noise, and inaccessibility during construction.
City Council member Charlie Luke, who voted against the 1100 East line, says he is concerned that there wasn’t a more robust public discussion before the vote tonight. “I fee like there was a lot of outreach that should have happened, but didn’t.” He also criticized a study commissioned by the City, which said that taking the line East up 2100 South to Highland High School would be more expensive and wouldn’t bring in heavy ridership. “There were a number of things left out [of the study], like Sugar House Park and the ridership that could have brought. I just feel like a number of things were overlooked, and I don’t think the 1100 East route is going to be the best.” Luke did, however, tell us that while he would have preferred the line to go East instead of North, the neighborhood will benefit from the streetcar once construction is complete. “The East Bench is severely limited in terms of public transportation, and I’m excited about this project overall.”
City Council member Kyle LaMalfa, who voted in favor of the 1100 East line, tells us that his vote was driven by a need to reduce the dangerously high levels of air pollution that plague Salt Lake City and the entire Wasatch Front. “We need to give people good options to move throughout the city,” he wrote in a text message. “That now starts by extending the streetcar North along 100 E and hopefully on to 9th & 9th, connecting with Trax & beyond ASAP.”
Council members Jill Remington Love, Stan Penfold, Carlton Christensen and Kyle LaMalfa voted in favor of the line, and Charlie Luke, Luke Garrot and Soren Simonson were opposed.
Phase 1 of the Sugar House Streetcar, which will run between the Trax Station on 2100 South and Highland Drive, is scheduled to be completed by December of 2013. Phase 2, which will now include the 1100 East route, has not been funded yet, and the City has said construction may not begin for several years. For more information, including maps of the routes, Salt Lake City has setup a website with details at www.shstreetcar.com.