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David Galvan said business dropped a knee-buckling 40 percent at his Mestizo Coffeehouse on North Temple during the past 3½ years as the Utah Transit Authority tore up the highway to build the new TRAX extension to Salt Lake City International Airport.
But the long-awaited day when the road construction was officially declared complete finally arrived Thursday and UTA let Galvan and other business owners celebrate by doing something they long dreamed about: Throw orange construction cones as far as they could.
"We not only wanted to toss cones, we wanted to burn all the construction signs," Galvan said, just before giving a cone a healthy hurl near a new TRAX station at 1950 W. North Temple. "Before construction, we had 25,000 cars a day pass by. We hope this is finally going to bring people back."
UTA began running test trains this week on the new $350 million, 6-mile extension. It is scheduled to open to the public on April 14 after extensive testing and certification.
UTA removed all the orange cones from the roadway on Thursday between the new North Temple viaduct and the airport while some construction will still continue on the trackway in the middle of the road and associated facilities, said UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter.
"At one point we had 7,000 barricades along North Temple" and just one slow lane of traffic in each direction, said Pete Funaro, owner of Diamond Lil's restaurant, and a leader of a business group that worked with UTA to minimize impacts on businesses.
But he pointed to neat new landscaping along the street, completed new traffic lanes and the TRAX tracks, and said proudly, "This will be a grand boulevard entrance to downtown Salt Lake City."
"The focus of development over the past 30 years has been the downtown area, so the west side has been a bit ignored," Funaro said. But he adds the improvements "make this area ripe now for new development," which he said can only help existing businesses.
He adds that it came at a cost. "Most businesses here say that their business has been down 30 percent to 40 percent during construction. Some had to close or move."
So some business owners were happy to put a little extra effort into their cone tossing.
The winner for distance and maybe also style appeared to be Zach Fullmer, a personal banker at the Wells Fargo branch on North Temple.
"I've wanted to do that for a long time," he said after spinning several times like a discus thrower, and heaving a cone 50 yards. "Now maybe some of our businesses here will start thriving a little bit better."
TRAX airport spur to open April 14
What • The new TRAX extension runs from the EnergySolutions Arena to North Temple and out to the Salt Lake City International Airport.
The extension will have stations atop the North Temple Viaduct (which connects to FrontRunner) and at 800 West, 1100 West, 1500 West, 1950 West and the airport. The extension will become part of the green line, which runs to the Valley Fair Mall in West Valley City.
When • The line is scheduled to open April 14.