Mayor Mendenhall: UDOT must protect homes in path of I-15 project

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Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall plans to call on the Utah Department of Transportation to avoid demolishing west side homes that are near the path of a planned expansion of Interstate 15, Building Salt Lake has learned.

Mendenhall is also asking that the agency extend the public comment period past the current Dec. 16 deadline until at least mid-January.

In a call Tuesday night, the mayor said it was “uncanny” that the city needed to act to protect homes while the federal government is actively trying to minimize the divides created by decades of highway-building.

“It’s uncanny that at the same time that we’re applying for unprecedented federal funding to reconnect and strengthen the community who has shouldered the majority of burden of regional infrastructure, rail and highway, we have to be defending the existence of those very homes,” Mendenhall said.

Mendenhall suggested the project will move ahead regardless of the growing backlash by residents in the city.

“I understand that when the Legislature asks an organization like UDOT to complete a task, they’re going to compete the task,” she said.

That task involves spending an anticipated $1.6 billion to add lanes and interchanges to I-15 in a project spanning more than half of Salt Lake City and up into Farmington.

Under the existing proposal several neighborhoods in Salt Lake City are in what’s called the “area of potential impact.”

Those homes include those built by the nonprofit organization NeighborWorks Salt Lake. Residents have lived for more than two decades in some of the homes built by the nonprofit.

The mayor highlighted some of the active transportation concepts that are in the plan, like separated trails on Beck Street, and new connections underneath the interstate at 500 North and 400 North.

The mayor is highlighting the need to protect homes and businesses without indicating a need to fight UDOT on the expansion.

“This concept of eliminating homes, especially on the west side is antithetic to the work of the city,” Mendenhall said. “Even [antithetical to] the work of this presidential administration and the country who’s funding the restoration of communities that were bifurcated or eliminated for the sake of highways in our nations history.”

The I-15 project continues a long list of recent highway-building by the state agency.

UDOT is actively working on the West Davis Corridor, a new freeway on the wetlands of the Great Salt Lake. It recently completed the expansion of I-15 in Utah County and I-15 in southern Salt Lake County. It is currently expanding I-80 and I-215 in Salt Lake County, and it recently completed the conversion of a surface highway into a freeway along US-89 in Davis County.

It remains unclear when the FrontRunner regional rail service will receive a second track to allow for better headways of trains along the Wasatch Front.

Comments on the proposal are currently due Dec. 16, unless the agency hears from enough people asking it to extend the deadline.

Email Taylor Anderson

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Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.