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Salt Lake City won't cut lanes on an east-side stretch of 2100 South after an unprecedented volume of public comment overrode arguments for increased safety and bicycle ridership.
City officials had argued that they could reduce crashes by 30 percent between 1700 East and 2300 East during a scheduled repaving by redrawing the lines so that instead of two lanes in each direction, there would be one lane each way and a central turn lane. One proposal also would have added bike lanes.
The city received about 1,500 public comments, said Department of Community and Neighborhoods Director Mike Reberg, with sentiment split pretty evenly. The vast majority of residents who live near 2100 South, however, said the lane reduction would cause rush-hour bottlenecks and divert traffic onto adjacent residential streets.
"This was the most successful public engagement Salt Lake City has had, perhaps, ever," Reberg said. "Hats off to the Transportation Division for really, in a tight time frame, getting a lot of people involved."
Mayor Jackie Biskupski wrote affected City Council members Charlie Luke and Lisa Adams to inform them that she "has decided not to pursue a change in lane configuration on 2100 South at this time" and that she believes "the city needs to do further outreach to explain the benefits of a complete streets concept on this and other roadways."
Adams said Thursday that she was "really pleased that they took so much input." Her own inbox reflected about a 15-to-1 ratio of opposition to support, she said.
Registered respondents to an online city survey actually favored lane reductions by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent, though 20 percent said they travel on 2100 South only few times each month.
Fifty-eight percent said it was "very important" to prevent crashes and injuries, while 50 percent believed it was "very important"to reduce congestion at rush hour.
Luke had opposed the reduction and said previous debates over so-called "road diets" on 1300 East in 2010 and 1300 South in 2013 had prepared him for objections from nearby residents.
"Anytime you start talking about removing lanes on arterial streets," Luke said, "there is going to be a lot of attention, a lot of concern."
The 2013 lane reduction on 1300 South from State Street to 700 East brought about a 29 percent decrease in crashes, city data indicate, while a similar change from 700 West to Redwood Road on California Avenue resulted in a 24 percent reduction.
Luke and Adams said the city has not measured the effects on side streets and other nearby arteries, though.
Adams said she has urged transportation officials to measure traffic near 2100 South now so that if they decide to reduce lanes in the future, they will gain a fuller understanding of the overall impact of road diets.