Community Leaders are working to reconnect the West side

The 600 North pedestrian crossing at 800 West. Photo by Andy Stevenson.

For many Salt Lake residents, the city’s infamously large city blocks and wide streets are impediments to making Salt Lake City into a more walkable, pedestrian-oriented city.  For the city’s westside residents this situation is exacerbated by train tracks and two freeways that not only impede walkability but create a physical disconnect between the west side and the more historically amenity- rich east side.

Yet recent actions by local community leaders and city officials are helping to improve the pedestrian experience and connectivity in the city’s west side.  Several projects are in development that will expand the westside’s bicycle and pedestrian networks.

City officials plan to add three new trail connections west of the interstate, the Jordan River Parkway bridge, the Folsom Trail and the extension of the 9-Line.

The Folsom Trail and 9-Line extension are still in the planning stages, but construction is actively underway on the bicycle and pedestrian bridge that will close the final gap of the Jordan River Parkway.  The bridge will span three active freight-rail lines between North Temple and 200 South and connect the 45-mile Jordan River Parkway Trail.

In addition to the trail segments, Salt Lake City leaders are seeking community input for a proposed pedestrian and cyclist bridge at 300 North and 500 West.  For decades, students from West High School and residents of the Guadalupe neighborhood have had to traverse the train tracks on 300 North.  

However, city transportation leaders and officials from the Utah Transit Authority hope that the recently proposed above-grade cyclist and pedestrian bridge at 300 North will help provide a safe, reliable connection for people, especially students, walking or biking across the train tracks in this corridor.

“This crossing has been a big issue for a long time,” said Colin Quinn-Hurst, project manager for the 300 North bridge. “We spoke with residents who had to climb through freight cars 30 and 40 years ago when they attended West High, and now see students facing the same problem.”

The bridge is in the planning stages.  The estimated $4.5 million bridge will be primarily funded by federal TIGER grant dollars, the Utah Transit Authority received by the organization last year.

According to Quinn-Hurst other funding partners for the 300 North bridge include Salt Lake City, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), Union Pacific Railroad and the Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC).

The Transportation Division aims to construct the bridge by 2022.

Several pedestrian upgrades have been driven by local community leaders and residents raising awareness of dangerous pedestrian crossings in the city’s Westside neighborhoods.  

Volunteers painted a rose mural at the intersection of American Beauty Drive and 800 North. Photo by Andy Stevenson.

According to Blake Perez, former chair of the Rose Park Community Council, these upgrades are part of a larger vision to create safer pedestrian crossings, slow vehicle speeds on key corridors and establish comfortable pedestrian connections between neighborhoods.

On such community action was the “Paint the Pavement Project,” a tactical urbanism project Rose Park Community Council members and transportation staff.  Volunteers painted a colorful rose mural at the intersection of American Beauty Drive and 800 North to draw attention to pedestrians in the intersection, especially young children walking to nearby, Rose Park Elementary.

While the main goal of the project was emphasizing safety for all roadway users, the colorful, hand-painted mural was designed by Rose Park residents Jonathan Gracey and Brandon Dayton to embrace the diversity of the community and improve public access to art.

“Our goal was to create a community space” Perez added.

Nearby, SLC Transportation staff also recently finished work on a safer pedestrian crossing at 600 North and 800 West.

Fast moving vehicles approaching 800 West from the I-15 North interchange make this crossing particularly hostile to pedestrians and cyclists. Weeks before work started on the crosswalk improvements, a woman died after being struck by a vehicle while attempting to cross 600 North.

In response, UDOT lowered the vehicle speed limit from 40 MPH to 35 MPH on the 600 North overpass. At the same time, city construction crews eliminated the crosswalk on the east side of the intersection where the woman was hit.

Instead, a newly designed crossing was constructed on the west side of the intersection. The new crossing includes Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons that alert drivers to pedestrians in the crosswalk, as well as a pedestrian refuge island in the center of the street. Additionally, concrete bulb-outs on both sides of the street shorten the physical distance pedestrians must travel in order to cross 600 North.

The 600 North pedestrian crossing at 800 West. Photo by Andy Stevenson.

Daniel Strong, a Rose Park resident, worked with the Rose Park Community Council and other residents to apply for the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) grant that funded the design and construction of the upgraded crossing, which had been in the works for years, according to Strong.

Banking on the successful implementation of this project,  the Rose Park Community Council hopes to improve conditions for walking and biking along all of 600 North as part of their “Slow Down 6th North” campaign.

Future projects include a neighborhood byway along 1300 West and Colorado Street that will add improved crossings across 600 North.  The Salt Lake City Council recently approved funding for this project in the final 2018 Fiscal Year City Budget.

Further south, in the Poplar Grove neighborhood, construction crews are finishing work on crossing improvements along Indiana Avenue. The project upgraded existing crosswalks at Navajo and Pueblo streets and added a new crossing at 1400 West.

Each crossing includes a concrete bulb-out on either side of the street, as well as stamped, colored concrete in the crosswalk. The crossings at Navajo and Pueblo also include new Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons.

West of the Indiana Avenue project, construction crews also recently upgraded existing crossings along the 9-Line Trail from 900 West to 700 West with stamped, colored concrete, as well as pedestrian bulb-outs at the 800 and 700 West crossings.

Even as pedestrian safety and accessibility gradually improve within Westside neighborhoods, connections to Downtown and other neighborhoods across I-15 and the adjacent railroad tracks remain few and far between, reinforcing the existing physical and cultural divide between east and west neighborhoods in Salt Lake City.

Both I-15 and the rail corridor that it parallels pose significant connectivity issues for Westside residents. Not only are east-west routes across the freeway limited to 10 streets between 1000 North and 2100 South, only four of those streets offer above-grade crossings that bypass railroad tracks, where trains frequently sit still for extended periods of time, cutting off access.

The Salt Lake City Transportation Division is seeking feedback for the design of this bridge. More information on the project can be found here.

Construction is underway on a pedestrian and cyclist connection bridge for the Jordan River Parkway Trail. Photo by Mike Christensen.

Posted by Andy Stevenson

Andy Stevenson is an intern at Building Salt Lake. Stevenson grew up in Utah County, and moved to Salt Lake City in 2015 to study communications at SLCC and the University of Utah. He is passionate about Salt Lake City and surrounding communities and wants to use his degree to promote positive urban growth in the area. Andy currently works for the Salt Lake City Public Library and spends his free time enjoying the Utah outdoors and working on film and photography projects.