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Federal funding to extend the Sugar House streetcar, also called the S Line, will not be forthcoming this year, leaving planners to rethink financial alternatives to lengthening the controversial line to Highland Drive.

The Utah Transit Authority, in conjunction with Salt Lake City, applied in May for a $21.5 million TIGER grant that would be matched by $5.6 million from the municipality. UTA made no contribution.

Funding would have underwritten an extension of the line to the intersection of 2100 South and Highland Drive. The administration of Mayor Ralph Becker plans to further lengthen it north on 1100 East to 1700 South.

The existing two-mile, $37 million line runs from TRAX Central Pointe Station at 221 West to McClelland Street (1040 East).

Salt Lake City Transportation Director Robin Hutcheson said city planners will "regroup" to determine if other financial mechanisms are available to stretch the line from its McClelland Street terminus east to Highland Drive.

The city most likely will continue to seek federal funding for the S Line, she said.

"I don't believe it's a good idea to give up on federal funding. TIGER (Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery) grants are very competitive," Hutcheson said. "The extension [of the S Line] is a great project that will be great for the neighborhood and the city."

But City Council Chairman Luke Garrott said the lack of grant money now will allow for further planning.

"This will give the city and its residents more time to build consensus around transit," he said. "We have no transit master plan. Decisions have been left up to the mayor's office. That's no way to build consensus."

Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall, who has championed the extension to 2100 S. Highland Drive, agreed there is an upside to the lack of grant funding this year.

"It gives us more time to support our small businesses that are along the proposed route," she said.

Many of the small businesses in the area don't want any extension of the Sugar House streetcar, said Eliza James, co-owner of the Boxing Is for Girls fitness center at 1983 S. 1100 East. She and her business partner, Lori Leighton, were among community leaders who organized protests surrounding the decision to bring the line north on 1100 East.

James said opposition to the line has unified the community.

"It's not just us, it's a lot of people," she said of opposition to the S Line extension. "It makes no sense," she said of running a streetcar down the narrow 1100 East that already is beset with traffic congestion.