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Sugar House streetcar prepares for public launch

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 4 2013 5:45 p.m. MST

Train operator Mark Lococo operates a streetcar along the new UTA S-Line that ends at the Fairmont stop, 2216 S. McClelland St., on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, in Salt Lake City. The official grand opening of the line will be held on Thursday with service to the public beginning on Saturday.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake Valley's light-rail system is adding a new route this weekend.

The grand opening of the Utah Transit Authority’s Sugar House streetcar is set for Sunday.

The $37 million, 2-mile streetcar line will run from the 2100 South Central Pointe TRAX station to McClelland Street (1045 East) and Sugarmont Drive (2225 South). Testing will continue this week until the line officially opens Sunday.

UTA is hosting a community celebration for the new S-Line from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Anyone can ride the streetcar that day by bringing one nonperishable food item to any station to be donated to the Utah Food Bank. There will be community parties at the 300 East and Fairmont stops.

Planning for the Sugar House streetcar began in 2006, and construction on the line started in April 2012. Development of the project was a joint partnership between Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake and UTA.

“(The streetcar) goes a maximum of 25 mph, averaging around 15 mph,” said S-Line project manager Jim Webb.

Cash fare for the S-Line will be $2.50, but riders who use fare cards or electronic passes can take the extension for $1 for a limited time. However, riders will have to pay the $1.50 difference if they transfer to a connecting bus or TRAX line, Webb said.

The cars for the new line will be identical to the vehicles used on UTA's Green and Red TRAX lines. However, the platforms on the extension will be much shorter than those on other light-rail lines, Webb said.

The S-Line corridor will be aligned with bicycle and pedestrian pathways to promote “green” travel. The city will also build areas along the strip where residents can play games and create an interactive community-friendly corridor.

What distinguishes the streetcar line from UTA’s TRAX lines is that most streetcars operate in a vehicle travel lane near the sidewalk, while light-rail lines typically operate in a dedicated guideway in the middle of a street. The streetcar’s slower speeds and frequent stops generate pedestrian traffic and encourage support of retail businesses, UTA officials said.

The S-Line will feature seven stations along the 2-mile route and is the first phase of the streetcar line. The city is expected to prepare an application for a federal grant to help fund Phase 2 of construction, with completion of the next phase expected to take three to five years.

"We are extremely excited by the return of streetcars to Salt Lake City,” said Salt Lake City spokesman Art Raymond. “This easy-to-use mode fills in a transit gap in a manner that is very neighborhood and business friendly, contributes to the overall livability of the area, and is another effort to address our ongoing air quality concerns.”

Raymond said the streetcar corridor complements and expands options for getting around the city's "second downtown" and has helped create more than $400 million in associated investment and development.

“While the last of our once expansive streetcar grid was erased over 60 years ago, look for this opening to mark a resurgence in neighborhood rail transit in Utah's capital city," he said.

Email: jlee@deseretnews.com

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