Despite concerns by some decisionmakers that the massive effort to give new life to the area west of downtown Salt Lake City is coming together too quickly, it isn't.
Salt Lake officials would be wise to act quickly to see the Salt Lake Gateway Project through. Action taken now will save many dollars later.The Gateway Project, basically encompassing 300 West to I-15 and 900 South to North Temple, is needed to bring much needed revitalization to the area.
The window of opportunity to fast-forward the project is here now, thanks to the focus on the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. The Games also are serving as a catalyst for I-15 reconstruction, light rail and commuter rail. All are needed. Why not take advantage of the situation?
The Gateway area used to be a peaceful Salt Lake suburb in the early 1900s but then the railroad arrived and changed things forever. Though it has left two significant landmarks - the Rio Grande and Union Pacific depots - it also has left heavy industry, steel, smoke and grease - hardly conducive to maintaining a peaceful setting.
But the past is the past. Cooperation between the railroad and city can lead to another idyllic, though modern, setting. Planners envision a mixed-use area of urban housing, business, culture, retail shops and manufacturing with a vibrant night life.
Salt Lake mayor Deedee Corradini is committed to making the Gateway an attractive part of the city. Other entities need to share in that commitment.
A lot of positive things have already happened. The Utah Department of Transportation has agreed to shorten the viaducts at 400, 500 and 600 South as part of the I-15 reconstruction project. Union Pacific has agreed to remove 4.3 miles of track, eliminating 66 grade crossings and vastly opening up the area. The Boyer Co. agreed to buy 40 acres of rail yard and convert the area into a huge mixed-use development.
The major sticking point in the development is the location of the intermodal hub. The primary purpose of the hub would be as a station for commuter rail. There are four sites, each with pluses and minuses. The pluses and minuses aren't likely to change over time. It's imperative to make a decision soon. According to Salt Lake City Planner William Wright, the decision on the hub location needs to be made within 60 days to keep things moving and take advantage of federal funds.
While some contest that timetable, what shouldn't be contested is the need to go forward and soon with the project.