SALT LAKE CITY — The City Council took a public hearing about proposed transportation ordinance to the streets, literally, as they gathered with Sugar House residents at Monument Plaza on Friday night.
Many residents were positive as they addressed the seven-faceted plan to make Sugar House a more walkable and bicycle-friendly area, addressing the aspects of the plan they supported while others explained what they would change.
A handful opposed to the idea altogether.
The ordinance was motivated by suggestions from a redevelopment study that sought to simultaneously incorporate transportation needs, said Robin Hutcheson, Salt Lake City's transportation director.
The proposal calls for expanding two gathering plazas, Monument Plaza, where the meeting was staged, and Sugarmont Plaza; eventual alignment of Sugarmont Drive and Wilmington Avenue; dividing large blocks to make them more walkable while adding improved pedestrian crossings; connecting Parleys Trail between the Fairmont Aquatic Center and Hidden Hollow; and beautifying the area by making streetscaping and lighting attractive and uniform.
Another suggestion in the plan involves turning Highland Drive's four lanes into three, one of which would be a left-hand turn lane. If that happens, the plan also calls for installing bike lanes on Highland Drive in the leftover space on either side. Another bike lane is proposed on McClelland Street, which would connect to Parleys Trail.
Andrew Bornstein, a new addition to the neighborhood, told the council he was pleased to see that several aspects of the plan were ideas he had already wondered about. Bornstein said he hopes changes to the area's streets will reduce the number of vehicles traversing Sugar House and increase how many people opt to walk or bike.
"I believe that if we make it more difficult to drive here, there will be less driving, and people will change their habits over time," he said. "I support long-term pedestrian access to this area."
Claudia Johnson, who described herself as a lifelong Sugar House resident, told the council that eliminating a right-hand turn lane that runs alongside Monument Plaza in order to expand the area, as well as other road makeovers, would have painful repercussions on traffic.
"I've seen the backup going farther and farther north," Johnson said. "I find that for my travels, I go through the neighborhoods now. When you keep cutting down lanes, it really backs up traffic to the north and to the south. It makes it very difficult."
Despite the chilly September air, residents addressed the City Council until the sun set. Many thanked the council for staging the meeting in their neighborhood, and City Council Chairman Kyle LaMalfa called the first-of-its-kind community hearing a success.
The council will debate the ordinance in a future work meeting before staging another public hearing at the Salt Lake City-County Building. LaMalfa said the council intends to make a decision on the ordinance by the end of the year.
Several Sugar House residents used the chance of having the City Council in their backyard to air other grievances, including several calls for an increased police presence to combat panhandling on the streets and drug activity in Fairmont Park.
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