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As a bus carrying the Salt Lake City Council and the Utah Transportation Commission exited Interstate 15 on the long 600 South viaduct, city leaders asked state officials to describe what visitors see at that main gateway into the state capital.

"Billboards," yelled out one. "Power lines, lots of power lines," said another. "Railroad tracks." They counted aloud seven crowded lanes of one-way traffic into a light industrial area.

City Council Chairman Charlie Luke said the city's other freeway entrances are similarly plain and, well, ugly. But he said other cities statewide often have exits with nice landscaping and signs — and his city now would like state help to create "grand boulevard" entrances off of I-15 into the state's biggest city.

That was one of many discussions about the future of transportation in the city that the two groups had this week as they spent an afternoon talking and touring together.

Others ranged from how to design state highways in the city to better accommodate and promote mass transit and biking, to talks about improving pedestrian safety and handling key congestion points. Following are some highlights.

Freeway exits • City officials say they and business leaders have been studying possible "grand boulevard" designs near freeway interchanges on 400, 500 and 600 South — which are all state highways.

Robin Hutcheson, the city's transportation director, described alternatives that may include landscaping to separate express and slower lanes. Luke said he would like beautification and landscaping similar to what can be seen in some newer freeway interchanges around the state.

Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation, said much of that landscaping elsewhere was funded by federal money that no longer is available. He said UDOT is willing to work with cities who are ready and able to use local money to fund beautification.

The city said it is also looking at a similar "grand boulevard" design for State Street from North Temple to 400 South.

City Council member Erin Mendenhall also asked UDOT to consider eliminating or reworking the 900 South exit off I-15. She would like the half-mile long exit roadway from the main I-15 vacated to permit development — which she said could help vitalize the area.

Braceras said that would likely be reviewed as part of a soon-to-launch study on the future of the I-15 corridor.

Capitol Hill • At the northwest corner of the state Capitol complex, the bus full of officials waited and waited — at least five minutes — at a stop sign to turn left from 500 North onto Columbus Street. That road has bumper-to-bumper traffic from drivers who use it to travel from Davis County to downtown Salt Lake City.

City officials say Capitol Hill residents complain it can take 20 minutes to make it through that intersection. UDOT officials said they are planning to install a traffic signal to solve the problem.

In front of the Capitol is a confusing three-way intersection at the top of State Street where some directions have no stop signs while others do. Officials said they are exploring the option of building a less-confusing roundabout there.

On East Capitol Boulevard, the city and state are looking at better trail connection to Memory Grove, possibly beautifying the street, adding an overlook to Memory Grove and adding bike lanes while preserving as much parking as possible.

Pedestrian, bike safety • Luke said he is concerned about pedestrians darting across busy streets such as Foothill Boulevard at points not near intersections — and wondered if more mid-block crosswalks could help.

Braceras said they do not work well on high-speed streets, because drivers tend not to realize they are there — and the crosswalks give pedestrians a false sense of security. UDOT noted, however, it has begun a study on how to handle heavy traffic on Foothill and accommodate the needs of surrounding neighborhoods.

UDOT used the tour to show some other efforts to protect pedestrians, including new lights in some downtown sidewalks to warn drivers when pedestrians are using them, and one at the University of Utah that actually stops traffic when it senses pedestrians.

City Council member James Rogers asked UDOT to consider adding sidewalks along portions of Redwood Road in Rose Park near a new city soccer park, and state officials agreed to consider it.

Officials also toured improvements on Redwood Road designed to help bicyclists, including addition of bike lanes there and traffic signals that use radar to detect bicyclists to change turning lights in their favor.

Transit • The city sought state cooperation for efforts that may add TRAX or streetcar lines along some state highways in the city.

Mayor Ralph Becker said his city and the Utah Transit Authority would like to extend TRAX lines from the University of Utah farther west along 400 or 300 South to the intermodal hub on the city's west side, creating a loop of TRAX rails around the downtown area.

He said it could improve TRAX operations by moving some lines off shared north-south tracks along Main Street to permit more frequent trains on the lines. Becker also outlined city hopes for a streetcar from downtown to the University of Utah, and also extension of the new Sugar House streetcar.

UDOT officials vowed to work with the city to work through all transportation issues. Braceras said that agency is "looking to accommodate all forms of transportation, not just highways."