City Council steers Sugar House streetcar extension to 1100 East

Published: Wednesday, May 8 2013 10:45 a.m. MDT

Brenda Nibley and her son, Eliott, protest against the streetcar line proposed to run along 1100 East in Sugar House on Wednesday, May 1, 2013.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Calling it a vote for improved air quality, Kyle LaMalfa cast the tiebreaking vote of support for an extension of the Sugar House streetcar line eastward onto 1100 East.

"For me, this vote is about winter and summer inversions that are choking us," the Salt Lake City councilman said Tuesday before casting the final vote.

The 4-3 decision was met by audible opposition, as residents in the packed room shot to their feet, threw up their hands and voiced a final, futile complaint as they hurried from the council chambers.

LaMalfa's vote went in favor of a motion by Councilwoman Jill Remington Love that also was supported by Carlton Christensen and Stan Penfold.

The city will now prepare an application for a federal grant, to be submitted later this year, to help fund Phase 2 construction. It could be three to five years before the streetcar extension is ready.

The first phase of the Sugar House streetcar will be operational by the end of the year, connecting to TRAX at the Central Point Station, 221 W. 2100 South.

Mayor Ralph Becker and his team supported the extension proposed in a private study, continuing the route north from the end of the streetcar line at Fairmont Park, 1040 East, and turning onto 1100 East toward Westminster College.

A secondary option receiving modest public support in recent weeks would have directed the streetcar eastward up 2100 South to Sugarhouse Park and Highland High School.

While the streetcar extension has been long discussed in official circles, a flood of public opposition surfaced at a public hearing April 23 as Sugar House residents who work and live on 1100 East insisted "not on my street."

Despite reported public approval in an alternatives analysis, business owners along the proposed route insisted they hadn't heard about the extension, much less supported it. They circulated petitions and staged protests in response, fighting to redirect the streetcar.

Among them was Pat Newhouse, a businesswoman operating Awakening Heart Gifts, Cards and Books along 1100 East. Newhouse called the vote "another nail in the coffin" for her small company.

"We've been struggling on 11th East for many years to keep our businesses viable," she said. "Every person that walks in the door is a valuable customer for us. You take those people away, or they think they can't get to our neighborhood because of the construction, this is what everyone is worried about."

In motioning to support a resolution recommending the 1100 East extension, Love asserted she did not feel rushed or unprepared to cast her vote, referencing years of research, hours of study and multiple public surveys done by the city's team. Despite recent outcry, Love asserted she has heard steady public support for 1100 East extension over time.

"I agree with the study, and I agree with the recommendation," she said. "There have been some legitimate and informed concerns expressed during this public process, and I want to make sure that they'll be addressed in the next step. … To the businesses along 1100 East, we are in this together. We will work on the tools to help you. We will keep you in business."

Love insisted proceeding with the extension must be contingent upon additional study of community impacts, such as traffic mitigation, access by emergency vehicles, preservation of existing trees and adequate access for bicyclists, as well as formation of a community working group to provide input.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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