Scores of residents told the Salt Lake City Council Tuesday night they are against surrendering their neighborhoods to an onslaught of traffic from a proposed I-15 interchange at North Temple.
"We are being asked to sacrifice our neighborhoods . . . on the alter of more efficient traffic flow," said Vincent Shepperd, an Avenues resident, and one of more than 100 people attending the second public hearing on the proposal.The council is holding hearings to determine whether it should recommend building the interchange to the Utah Department of Transportation. They're now awaiting completion of an environmental impact statement being prepared by the Wasatch Regional Front Council.
All two dozen speakers who addressed the council expressed opposition to the proposal - although three people at the hearing indicated in writing they favored the interchange.
Opponents said the interchange would disrupt the Avenues, Capitol Hill, People's Freeway, Jackson and Guadalupe neighborhoods with excessive traffic and send some areas into economic decline.
State Sen. Rex Black, D-Salt Lake, who represents a district west of I-15, said existing I-15 and I-80 routes have "segmented the community" and sent the area's housing industry into a tailspin. Another interchange would compound already poor economic conditions.
Several residents challenged assertions made in the past by some city council members that the interchange would bring needed shoppers into the downtown area.
"Vitality for downtown means people, not cars," said Rolly Pearson, adding the interchange would overcrowd downtown with vehicles and discourage pedestrian traffic.
"Would you shop in Crossroads Mall if there were cars running up and down the aisle?" he asked, eliciting laughs from people who filled the council chambers.
If a North Temple interchange is built, traffic heading east from I-15 to the downtown area would increase hourly traffic flow from 850 to 3800 vehicles, according to a study commissioned by the Regional Council.
Roger Borgenicht reminded the council that the Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team has noted that pedestrian access is crucial to a successful downtown, and that more cars would hurt the city's business district.
"How could a quadrupling of traffic to the heart of the city be a positive point?' he asked.
Citizens may have to wait until next year for the council to vote on backing the proposal, which ultimately would have to be approved by the Utah Legislature.
An environmental impact study conducted by the Regional Council may not be available until January, prompting Councilwoman Sydney Fonnesbeck to wonder aloud if the Regional Council, a collection of area municipalities, wasn't trying to wear the council down into a decision favoring the interchange.
Councilwoman Florence Bittner, who represents the city's northwest quadrant which may face the greatest impact of the proposal, said the wait would be worthwhile. "There are still a lot of questions I haven't had answered," she said.
Bittner said she hasn't reached a decision on the issue, but during an impromptu speech to the audience she said much of the perceived impact of increased traffic in neighborhoods could be prevented. She also questioned figures showing large neighborhood traffic increases.
"Where are the cars coming from? Are they just going to multiply like spontaneous generation?" she asked.
At the first public hearing on the proposal in May, 300 people, mostly opposed to the interchange, jammed council chambers.
A representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke against the interchange at that meeting, saying the interchange would clog popular Temple Square with excess traffic.
The proposal calls for a widening of North Temple to include six eastbound lanes and five westbound lanes.