The Utah House minority leader and another Democrat who represents the downtown district said they think the Legislature needs to act to protect businesses along the light-rail path and those hurt by I-15 construction.
In a downtown press conference near torn-up Main Street, Reps. Dave Jones and Ralph Becker, both D-Salt Lake, said they have directed bills to be drafted that will force local governments and transit agencies to better cooperate with businesses in construction areas and figure out ways to lessen negative impacts.They also want to require an economic analysis of what the construction will do to both businesses and tax revenues before construction begins.
Jones said the loss of business to Main Street merchants didn't have to happen. Businesses along the street have seen their revenues drop 40 to 50 percent.
He said that, along with the construction, the cleanliness of downtown has suffered. He said he was embarrassed as tourists walked downtown on Sunday.
"Light rail and transit improvements are key to addressing future transportation needs of the Salt Lake Valley, and we are fully supportive of those improvements," said Jones, who also is running for Salt Lake mayor. "It's simply not good enough to point to the future benefits of light rail when businesses are dying today because nobody bothered to consider the impacts."
Jones criticized the planning of the Main Street light-rail construction and said the same mistakes shouldn't be made on 400 South or North Temple or other future light-rail extensions.
Along with proposing the legislation, the legislators asked UTA, the Utah Department of Transportation and the Salt Lake mayor's office to conduct a more thorough analysis of the impacts on local businesses and neighborhoods before more light-rail work is done.
Proposals by Jones and Becker that would have helped businesses hurt by I-15 construction and also would have required UDOT to coordinate construction activities with impacted cities and neighborhoods failed in the 1998 Legislature.
Jones said he thinks the chances of the newest legislative initiative passing may be strengthened as it becomes harder for legislators to ignore businesses that are impacted by construction.