Should it go north or should it go east?
More than 200 people jammed Salt Lake City Hall on Tuesday evening for a lively public hearing on the extension of the Sugar House Streetcar.
There was a mixed bag of opinions, but many speakers told the City Council they were against a line extension from 2100 South north along 1100 East.
Although Westminster College students like the plan.
By contrast, a significant number of speakers endorsed an extension east on 2100 South.
By year's end, the first segment of the line should open from the TRAX Central Pointe Station at 200 West to McClelland Avenue at about 1050 East and 2250 South. It's expected the line will be extended one-half block east to Highland Drive and north to 2100 South.
But the alignment of the next segment has not yet been determined. Salt Lake City must select a "preferred alternative" before it can apply for federal grant funding. The council is expected to endorse a plan next month.
Mayor Ralph Becker's administration wants the line to go north on 1100 East to 1700 South. But council members Soren Simonsen and Charlie Luke believe it should go east on 2100 South to 1700 East.
Lori Leighton, who owns Boxing Is For Girls, a fitness gym on 1100 East, said she is against the 1100 East alignment. Recently during a one-week period, she said she gathered 1,565 signatures against the 1100 East line.
Leighton said tearing up the street for months for construction of the line could drive her out of business.
"We are thriving on this street," she said. "We don't need [the streetcar]."
Another merchant on 1100 East, Pamela Pedersen of Central Book Exchange, said a streetcar on that route would be bad for the neighborhood and bad for her business. She called it an "illogical" plan that comes with a "high price tag."
Other speakers, such as Emily Ford, said 1100 East is too narrow for a streetcar and will add to congestion. Further, she said, it will cause safety hazards for bicycles and pedestrians.
But Amy Shaw, who lives near 1100 East, supports the line and said the streetcar would be a solution to congestion on 1100 East, rather than adding to it.
"It will be difficult in the short term," she said of the construction, "but in the long term it will be good for local businesses."
But Ben Labrum told the council it should route the streetcar east on 2100 South to his neighborhood.
"It's about air pollution," he said. "We are a big part of the problem. Every time we go somewhere, we get in our cars."
J.D. Smith, of the 21st & 21st business district, said he and other merchants on 2100 South would welcome the streetcar.
"Bring the streetcar east for our customers, for our employees and for our businesses."
The chairman of the Sugar House Community Council, Christopher Thomas said by a 2-to-1 margin, members of his organization favor the 2100 South alignment.
But Shiela O'Driscol, who lives on 2100 South, said she and her neighbors don't want a streetcar on 2100 South. "We don't want commercial development in our neighborhood."
Sugar House resident John Stringham was among a half-dozen or more speakers who suggested a transportation master plan be completed before additional streetcar segments are added.
"Let's come up with a master plan, so the community can talk about this through a master plan of what works."