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Sugar House transportation plan calls for fewer cars, more bikes and pedestrians

Published April 1, 2013 5:14 pm

Plan • Those on bike, foot would benefit; not all are sold on reducing vehicle traffic.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The future is coming to Sugar House — soon.

Churning its way through City Hall is the "Sugar House (transportation) Circulation" plan that proposes adding bike lanes, subtracting car lanes, creating a pedestrian plaza at 2100 South and Highland Drive, and adding streets and walkways to the commercial center surrounding ShopKo.

The circulation plan also would establish the route of an extension to the Sugar House Streetcar line that soon will ply rails at about 2250 South from the Central Pointe TRAX station at 200 West to McClelland Street (1050 East).

The draft implementation plan developed by the California-based consulting firm Fehr & Peers, incorporates Salt Lake City's "Complete Streets" policy that emphasizes mass transit, bicycles and pedestrians, as well as automobiles.

These are some highlights of the multifaceted plan:

• Closing the right-turn lane on eastbound 2100 South at Highland Drive to create a pedestrian plaza around the Sugar House Monument.

• Realigning the intersection of Sugarmont Drive (2250 South) and Wilmington Avenue at Highland Drive.

• Reducing Highland Drive south of 2100 South from four lanes to three to allow the creation of bicycle lanes.

• Adding bicycle lanes along 2100 South.

• Dividing large blocks into smaller ones in the commercial area between Interstate 80 and Wilmington Avenue from Highland Drive to 1300 East.

Aspects of the proposal could be controversial because some motorists may not favor a reduction in automobile lanes, said City Council Chairman Kyle LaMalfa. But additional forms of transportation are necessary to meet future needs.

"We have to get more people where they want to go without adding cars," he said.

The proposed circulation plan would make central Sugar House a destination for those who ride mass transit or who are willing to park their cars and walk, LaMalfa said.

"The way things are shaping up, this will make the pedestrian and bicycle experience delightful," he said. "But those who are traveling through [by auto] might not realize the benefits."

The city should proceed cautiously with any plan that would reduce auto traffic on 2100 South, advised Councilman Charlie Luke. A plaza may be a good idea, but it would require trade-offs.

"The intersection [at 2100 South and Highland Drive] is bad to begin with," he said. "The closure of the right-turn lane will exacerbate that. But the Sugar House community is in favor of a monument plaza."

Further reducing auto access along 2100 South, however, is not a good idea, Luke said. For that reason he does not favor bike lanes on the crowded thoroughfare between 500 East and 1300 East.

"People use 2100 South to travel and commute," he said. "And if Sugar House becomes difficult to access, people won't go there on a regular basis."

Both the Sugar House Merchants Association and Sugar House Community Council support creating a plaza on the south side of 2100 South that would replace the right-turn lane and a dozen parking slots.

Annalisa Holcombe, chairwoman of the merchants association, said her group favors a business district that is more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. But business people want to ensure auto traffic doesn't become more inconvenient.

"There are trade-offs," she said. "But we want to make sure cars can circulate."

Amy Barry, vice chairwoman of the community council, describes the plan as one of "competing values." That is, making the Sugar House business district more bicycle and pedestrian friendly means fewer auto lanes and slower auto traffic.

Barry points to the "road diet" on 1300 East between 500 South and 2100 South that she said has accomplished exactly that, while not reducing overall auto volume.

Many members of the community council favor eliminating the right-turn lane at 2100 South and Highland Drive for a pedestrian plaza, she said. "It's a lot more exciting than what we have now," she said. "It is a trade-off. But what is more important?"

Part of the larger proposal would extend the Sugar House Streetcar from Sugarmont Drive (2250 South) north along Highland Drive to 2100 South, where it would turn around at the proposed monument plaza.

Councilman Soren Simonsen said that would be a mistake. "I don't support, at all, having the streetcar dead-end at the plaza," he said. "That's incompatible with a pedestrian plaza."

The proposals in the circulation plan are not set in stone, said Salt Lake City Transportation Director Robin Hutcheson. Such things as bike lanes on 2100 South and a streetcar terminus at the monument plaza require more study, she said.

The overarching goal of the circulation plan is to make Sugar House accessible to all modes of transportation, Hutcheson said.

"We want to make sure we are doing a lot for pedestrian traffic, bicycle traffic and mass transit."

csmart@sltrib.com Sugar House public hearing

The Salt Lake City Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the "Sugar House Circulation" plan at its April 10 meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. in Room 325 at City Hall, 451 S. State.

The traffic-circulation plan should come before the City Council in May or June, but no date has yet been set for a public hearing.

O Find a .pdf draft of the plan online. > bit.ly/sugarplan






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