Salt Lake City is out to change the culture of its busy streets by taking one back at a time.
The latest target: another stretch of 1300 East, this one from Interstate 80 to 3300 South.
Transportation engineers and politicians plan to make over the car-happy roadway the state recently relinquished it to the city by erecting pedestrian-controlled crosswalk signals, narrowing the lanes, lowering the speed limit to 35 mph and, eventually, painting bicycle alleys along each side.
"That's incredibly needed," John Rice, who lives near 2700 South and 1400 East, said during an open house at Nibley Park School on Saturday. "A whole lot more people would bike if they made it convenient or safe anyway."
The impetus, officials say, is safety. It also stems from recommendations culled from a 2009 University of Utah road-safety audit.
In coming months, expect to see a pedestrian-activated traffic signal at the intersection of Stratford Avenue and 1300 East just south of Sugar House Park. New signs will sprout and lane shifts are charted for the intersection of Highland and 1300 East. There, the inside lane will become the left-turn lane, while the two outside lanes remain through lanes.
"Pedestrian crossing has been the biggest complaint," said Kevin Young, the city's transportation planning engineer. "It's just hard to get across 1300 East."
Though sparsely attended, the open house drew a handful of neighbors eager to see these upgrades and more. One couple complained they never can cross the corridor with cars whizzing by around 50 mph. With young kids in tow, they are afraid to even walk along the street.
But a major overhaul is dependent on funding and still could be years away, officials say. Those "Phase 2" elements would include the bike lanes, speed-limit drop from 40 mph to 35 mph and some form of crosswalk signals at the Zenith and Elgin intersections between 2700 South and the Brickyard.
Such a "complete street" overhaul with new signals and bike lanes recently was finished along 1300 East between 500 South and 2100 South.
City Councilman Soren Simonsen, who helped host the open house, notes the city is systematically revamping the roadways it got from the state. Such is the case on North Temple between downtown and the international airport, while 2100 South also now is in city hands. (Major arterials 700 East, State Street and 300 West still are controlled by the Utah Department of Transportation.)
Simonsen would like to see the speed limit slowed further, to 30 mph. In fact, he favors a 30-mph cap on every city street. "I'm much more concerned about safety than convenience to motorists," he said. "That's one of the tragedies of the 20th century that everything was turned over to motorists. We're working bit by bit to get it back."
A virtual east-side highway in places, 1300 East serves Interstate 80, the Sugar House neighborhoods, Westminster College and the U. Pedestrian upgrades are made more challenging since stretches of the road closer to 3300 South actually are controlled by Salt Lake County.
"It's a challenging street," Young added. "It all can work but everybody would have to cooperate."
Simonsen says that shouldn't be an obstacle, noting county officials consider the strip a "city-functioning street." If the Phase 2 money is raised, he anticipates a pedestrian-activated crossing signal every quarter mile. "That will be a really significant improvement."
But will 1300 East ever really be bicycle-friendly? The street's relatively level terrain and its width make it possible so long as the upgrades eliminate riders' fear factor.
Neighbor Elise Boeke is not there yet.
"Right now, it is too dangerous to ride," she said. "We avoid it and go on the side streets."
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For more information and to comment on the 1300 East plan, go to www.slcgov.com/transportation