Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis said current plans for an I-15 exit at North Temple call for a minimum-standard interchange that would create infrastructure headaches for the city.
Any traffic growth would mean the proposed North Temple interchange would become stacked up during rush hours, DePaulis said. To widen North Temple in order to handle the additional volume of traffic, the viaduct over the street would also need to be widened, which would be a massive expense."I'm not going to buy an infrastructure problem," DePaulis said.
DePaulis said he hasn't taken an official stand on the interchange, but for him, the issue doesn't pit neighborhood residents against the business community. The key word is infrastructure.
The current Sixth South interchange acts as an anchor to the already faltering south end of downtown. To lose traffic in the south end of the Central Business District would be another blow, the mayor said. And more traffic in the north end would just create congestion problems around the LDS Church's Temple Square, where parking is already at a premium.
"My answer is to build a light rail system first," DePaulis said.
Building two additional lanes onto I-15 would have a price tag double that of building an entire light rail system. "That doesn't make sense to me," he said.
At a heated public meeting before the City Council last month, a majority of speakers complained the interchange would destroy city neighborhoods, while others paint the freeway ramp as the savior for area businesses. The council will hold another hearing in August.
The state will make the final decision on the project, but DePaulis says he'll have a say through the Wasatch Front Regional Council.
DePaulis formed a committee to look at the proposal, and
after researching it, the group was split evenly. City Traffic Engineer Tim Harpst, who sat on the committee, said there are ways to channel traffic flow that would minimize the impact on the Avenues and Capitol Hill neighborhoods.
Gerry Blair, a transportation consultant working with the regional council, said North Temple is the only alternative for a new interchange because it is the only street that meets criteria of the Federal Highway Administration.
Community activist Rosemarie Rendon promised the City Council she and little old ladies in her neighborhood will stand in front of any bulldozers sent to construct the interchange if the project is approved.
Councilwoman Sydney Fonnesbeck has expressed opposition to the plan, saying additional traffic would destory the Avenues and Federal Heights neighborhoods, which she represents. Councilwoman Florence Bittner, who respresents the city's northwest neighborhoods, said the business people on North Temple are strongly in favor of the interchanges, while some area residents are opposed.
Those who favor the interchange say it will make access to downtown easier and will help stop businesses and shoppers fleeing city limits in favor of the suburbs.
Whichever way she votes, her constituents will be upset, as they appear to be split evenly over the proposed interchange, Bittner said.