New Sugar House tunnel will increase accessibility, safety

By Miranda Collette

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, May 9 2014 11:19 p.m. MDT

"The Draw," an underground tunnel built in Sugarhouse Park, will be completed by June 6.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to a game of fetch, even a drizzle won't stop Neil Davis and his 4-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Daisy, from walking to Sugarhouse Park.

Davis, who moved to Utah from Australia two years ago, says he loves living in Sugar House and takes advantage of the park several times a week.

“The Draw,” an underground tunnel that will make it easier for pedestrians to access the park from the business district, is set to be completed by June 6. For a little over a year now, Davis has patiently waited for that date so he can take Daisy on her debut walk to Petco from the park.

According to Maggie Shaw, chairwoman of the Sugar House Community Council, the tunnel will not only increase safety but also accessibility for the community's booming population and surrounding businesses.

“We are going to have probably around 1,000 more people there in the near future because of all the buildings, and I think anytime that we can make businesses accessible to people so they can walk to them, all the better,” Shaw said.

Shaw is confident that people will flock to Sugar House once the old Granite Furniture warehouse has been developed and the new apartment complexes and senior housing in that area have been completed.

“There’s going to be a lot more people, which is going to mean a lot more cars. So if we can keep it so people can easily walk to get to a restaurant, to buy something, to go to a grocery store, I think that’s a very good thing," she said.

The tunnel will not only be beautiful, as it will display a pattern of Utah’s state flower, the Sego Lily, in the grass outside of the entrance, but it also will increase resident traffic to and from the business district.

For longtime Sugar House residents Larry and Janice Coulter, the new tunnel is an exciting new safety feature and will be an easier way to get their errands done.

“Crossing 13th East is very scary, so being able to go under it on a pedestrian walkway makes a lot of sense,” said Janice Coulter, who has lived in the neighborhood with her husband for 30 years.

Since they have retired, the Coulters prefer walking in Sugar House to do their shopping rather then driving. The park, which was designed in the 1950s for vehicles, is now giving back to pedestrians with its increased safety and business accessibility.

Mark Morris, an adjunct professor for the College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Utah, has been working with undergraduate students to come up even more ways to make Sugarhouse Park more useful and efficient.

With the new tunnel solving a major pedestrian issue on the west side of the park, the students are directing their focus on improving park accessibility from the northern side.

The students' proposed ideas would improve 2100 South, between 1300 East to 1700 East, by narrowing the road and putting in a median to slow down traffic.

“At the end of the day, people drive as fast as the road is designed to allow cars to travel, and when you have a road … that’s seven lanes of traffic wide, you feel very safe driving 55 miles per hour. So redesigning that road, which was their approach, is an inexpensive solution.” Morris said.

With the Sugarhouse Park Authority and architecture undergrads continually reimagining the Sugar House community, the new tunnel is the first step of many park improvements pedestrians can anticipate.

Email: mcollette@deseretnews.com, Twitter: @MirandaCollette

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