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Feds Deny Grant For Sugar House Streetcar

Brian Grimmett

The U.S. Department of Transportation has denied Salt Lake City’s application for a federal grant that would help the city stretch the Sugar House Streetcar eastward about half a block. Now the city council must decide how to move forward with federal funding off the table.

The "S” line opened to the public back in December 2013. It runs from the Central Pointe TRAX Station at 200 West and 2100 South to 1050 east. The extension would bring the rail line to 1100 east also known as Highland Drive. It would cost about $15 million dollars. But without the $10.6 million the council hoped to receive from the federal government in the form of a so-called TIGER Grant, the city will have to wait to complete the project.

District Five Councilor Erin Mendenhall calls the existing rail line a hamstrung runner without the extension. Ridership on the line is only a third of what was projected. She says the council will likely wait for the forthcoming transit master plan to be complete before taking any additional action.

“For me, the primary conversation at this point is getting UTA to extend the hours of the streetcar that is existing,” Mendenhall says. “It’s critical. That’s part of the modeling that went into the original streetcar discussion is that it would run in hours that mirror TRAX. And it doesn’t and it never has and it’s really critical that we get there.”

Mendenhall hopes another opportunity to apply for federal grant will come along, noting the TIGER Grant program is unpredictable.

Earlier this month the council voted 4 to 3 to accept the TIGER grant funding and set aside $3 million dollars in local money to match it.

“That’s a pretty close vote and I think that as the transit master plan comes to fruition, which is a really a long ways off at this point, at least a year, we could have discussions in the meantime about where that streetcar is going,” Mendenhall says.

The city council voted last year to adopt an alignment for the second phase of the “S” Line. It’s slated to travel north on 1100 East to 1700 South. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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