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Pedestrian infrastructure project could help bridge the divide between east and west Salt Lake City

Bike lane safety symbol painted on the street
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A road reconstruction project on 100 S. near the University of Utah. Dave Iltis with Cycling Utah said bike lanes on 100 S. would make riders feel safer. “I personally don't want to ride in the car travel lane and would like my own space so cars can easily pass by me without putting me in danger or running into me from behind,” he said.

The 600 North/700 North corridor in Salt Lake City is five lanes of car-centric traffic, running east to west and dividing the west side neighborhoods of Rose Park and Fairpark. It doesn’t have many options for pedestrians or bikes, but the Salt Lake City Council could change that.

The council is on the brink of approving a major bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure project on the road and could decide on it this week. The $4 million project would add new pedestrian crossings, extend curbs and install separated bicycle lanes.

The project would also serve as a way to incentivize more use of the Utah Transit Authority’s 205 bus line. Officials said the road as it exists right now is not allowing that to happen.

“You’re always going to cross the street for at least one leg of your trip,” said Salt Lake City Transportation Director Jon Larson. “Right now, 600 North is not a very comfortable and arguably not a very safe experience.”

Advocates and city leaders across Salt Lake have been calling for safer streets and slower speeds in recent months after a slew of pedestrian deaths.

Larson said residents in the area were largely behind the push to get the project started.

“We’ve heard a lot from the community that they don’t like that it’s this unsafe,” he said. “Some people use this phrase ‘traffic sewer’ — where you’re just designing for the flow of traffic and nothing else and just oblivious to the context that these are people’s neighborhoods on either side of this street.”

The project is funded through a mix of city and state money and comes on the heels of other walkability projects on 300 West and 900 South.

Sweet Streets is a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit that advocates for people-first design of streets and public spaces. Co-founder Taylor Anderson said the project will help bridge the historical I-15 boundary between the city’s east and west side.

“That creates a pretty inequitable division between the east part of Salt Lake City and the west part of Salt Lake City,” he said. “We don’t want anybody to feel isolated or like they have to drive to get from one side to the other because that right now is kind of the case.”

Going forward, Anderson said a whole lot else could be done in the city to improve the safety of people who aren’t in cars, including the relatively low cost of re-striping some of Salt Lake City’s famously wide streets.

“Any street in the broader downtown area is a 132 foot right of way.” Anderson said. “We could re-stripe them tomorrow and you would not see a meaningful impact on traffic or congestion. It would just open up more opportunities for people to travel. You can get it done with paint. The city and the public need to just open their eyes to see what is possible with paint.”

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
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