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North Temple viaduct could reopen next month

Published July 7, 2011 9:41 pm

Transportation • Bridge connecting west and east SLC has been closed since April 2010
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah Transit Authority says the rebuilt North Temple viaduct over rail yards in downtown Salt Lake City should open to traffic next month —¬†after being closed for the past 15 months, making east-west travel difficult, and leaving stranded North Temple businesses fighting for survival.

That reopening won't be a second too soon for Margot Mortensen, manager of the Econo Lodge near the west end of the viaduct.

"It has really hurt us," she says. "I would guess our business has been down at least 20 percent."



She said any business created from passers-by deciding to stop disappeared. She said people who book rooms do so in advance online. "But they call us and say they can't find how to get to us. We have to give them directions. ... I'll be happy when the bridge opens."

UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter said exactly when it will open depends on the weather and how fast it allows construction to proceed. He said it could be as early as mid-August or as late as early September. He said that is a bit ahead of the 18-month closure projected when the bridge closed in April 2010.

UTA is building a new $350 million TRAX line from downtown to the airport that follows North Temple, and is expected to open in 2013. UTA originally considered building a TRAX-only bridge across the rail yards, but Carpenter said officials figured the old viaduct was near the end of its lifespan and it made sense to replace it with a joint-use bridge from 400 West to 600 West.

While vehicle traffic should open next month, much work remains on bridge portions that will carry TRAX trains, Carpenter said. And lane restrictions along North Temple will continue amid ongoing TRAX construction to the airport.

The $71 million viaduct will include a transfer station between TRAX trains that will stop atop the bridge, and FrontRunner commuter trains that will stop beneath it. "The stops will be connected by escalators," Carpenter said. The bridge will also include bicycle and pedestrian lanes, which the old bridge lacked.

"We are looking forward to this bridge as a connector for the community. The old viaduct was more of a divider," said Bill Knowles, Downtown Rising ombudsman for Salt Lake City with North Temple businesses.

"Without question, it has been difficult for businesses —¬†worse for some than others," Knowles said. "It's probably been the hardest on restaurants. It's been hard for people downtown to get to them for a quick lunch."

Agreeing is Diana Nguyen, manager of Leatherby's on North Temple. She sat in a nearly empty restaurant just before noon on Thursday.

"Business has been way down. They closed the bridge at the same time that the economy went bad. So both things hit us," she said. "We're surviving. But a lot of that has been because of catering we do and wholesaling.

"We get people calling us all the time asking if we are still open. We get calls from some asking how to get to us," she said. "Some people who come here for lunch from the airport call us in advance. They want us to have everything ready and waiting because it takes so long to get here that they have to eat in a hurry so they can get back to work on time."

Across the street, the Red Iguana restaurant has been more lucky.

"We've done all right. Our business has been pretty consistent," said dining room manager Erin Green.

"It has helped that 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives' (a show on the Food Network) has been replaying their episode about us a lot," Green said. "It helps to be popular. But we'll still be happy when that bridge finally opens."

Knowles said North Temple businesses, the city and the UTA are already planning a celebration for the opening of the bridge, and additional publicity to tell residents that North Temple businesses are open and accessible during ongoing TRAX construction.

"I think business will be much better once the bridge finally opens. I can't wait," Nguyen said. —

Looking forward

P The $71 million viaduct will include a transfer station between TRAX trains that will stop atop the bridge, and FrontRunner commuter trains that will stop beneath it.

 

 

 

 

 

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