All seven city council members signed a letter to Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Utah Transit Authority CEO Jerry Benson this week, saying they were ‘alarmed’ to learn about the plans.
The city and UTA came to an agreement to install a chain-link fence on either side of the TRAX line along 200 South, between 400 and 500 West, and close the mid-block crosswalk. The new owner of The Gateway mall, development firm Vestar, requested the fence, citing concerns about safety and jaywalkers.
Councilman Derek Kitchen represents the downtown area. He says closing a mid-block crosswalk goes against long-held city planning goals for walkability.
“If safety’s the concern,” Kitchen says, “then I would much rather, as a city, make an investment in a HAWK signal or other safety measures, rather than taking out a crosswalk that people use.”
Kitchen and other council members say they’re also concerned about the optics of installing a physical barrier between planned development and the homeless community.
But Mike Reberg, who heads the city’s department of community and neighborhoods, says after seeing safety reviews by UTA, he believes the plan is conducive to a safer street.
“This is about safety,” Reberg says, adding that “this is a temporary situation. We want to avoid a tragedy from occurring in the first place, and we’re taking the appropriate steps to do that.”
Reberg says there may be other areas with safety issues, but the city is focusing on 200 South because a business brought it to attention.
A spokesman for UTA says the agency will move forward with construction when the city reaches a consensus.