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Mayor Ralph Becker: Streetcar success reflects state of Salt Lake City

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 5 2011 1:15 a.m. MST

Prior to giving the State of the City address, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker holds his hand over his heart.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Ralph Becker left most of his trophies on the shelf Tuesday night, preferring to showcase the one he says best reflects the state of Salt Lake City.

Departing from the traditional listing of accomplishments, Mayor Becker kept his State of the City address short and focused on the future by highlighting one of his administration's top priorities of 2010: the Sugar House streetcar.

"This project reflects — in style and in substance — the goals, values and priorities we have set for our great city," Becker said during his 17-minute speech at the Salt Lake City-County Building. "It exemplifies our continued commitment to move Salt Lake City forward despite challenging economic conditions."

It's also an example of how Becker's collaborative approach to leading Utah's capital city has allowed his administration to accomplish bold and lofty goals.

"To achieve the successes we want, we must have the confidence to involve everyone with a stake in the outcome and a shared vision to help us achieve our goals," he said. "We cannot go it alone as a municipality."

Becker recalled standing on the abandoned railway at the corner of McClelland Street and Sugarmont Drive in October 2007 and declaring that he would work toward bringing a streetcar to the area during his first term in office.

At the time, Becker insisted that by working together with the Utah Transit Authority and South Salt Lake, a two-mile streetcar line from the 2100 South TRAX station to the old Granite Furniture building could move forward much sooner than what then was a 20- to 25-year timetable.

"This made many of the 'experts' uncomfortable," he said, "and while we had a strong vision and a dream, we didn't have any prospects for funding it."

This October, Becker was back on that street corner, celebrating a $26 million federal grant that will allow construction of the Sugar House streetcar project to begin by the end of 2011 and be operational as soon as 2013.

Becker next wants to bring streetcars back to downtown, a project that recently got a $500,000 boost from the federal government to supplement planning work that already has been conducted.

"As our work to strengthen partnerships and livability in Salt Lake City continues, our path forward is informed by both our vision for the future and the accomplishments of the past," the mayor said.

The streetcar project, Becker said, continues the city's goal of livability — the focus of his State of the City address a year ago. The streetcar line will be integrated with Parleys Trail, and the city plans to build incentives into mixed-use and more dense development of the area, he said.

"The Sugar House streetcar won't be just a transit line," Becker said. "It will be a wonderful asset in one of our most treasured neighborhoods. ... The Sugar House area will be enhanced as a 'destination neighborhood,' with bikeways and trails, locally owned eclectic small businesses, restaurants, shops and a wide array of housing options."

Becker credited the city's "talented and committed leadership and employees" with enabling the city to move forward on projects such as the Sugar House streetcar, despite challenging economic times.

"While much has been accomplished, there is much more to do to help Salt Lake City achieve its potential as a Great American City," he said. "... My commitment to (the City Council) and to our residents, businesses and visitors, is to continue to work together ... to produce the results that make Salt Lake City so livable, unique and prepared for the future."

e-mail: jpage@desnews.com

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