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APA Utah News & Events

Planning In The News

March 12, 2024 by Evan Curtis

Planning in the news: Salt Lakers are about to miss an opportunity for reconnection over and under I-15

By Benjamin Wood, In Salt Lake City Weekly. Link to article here.

Two of my favorite parks in Salt Lake City are Guadalupe Park and Jackson Park. Both are located on 500 North, with Guadalupe at 600 West and Jackson roughly 300 yards away on Grant Street.

I visit them when I’m out jogging with my dogs. Guadalupe has an art piece depicting the neighborhood’s namesake and Jackson has a blend of open space and walking paths. I first stumbled upon Jackson during the pandemic, when several streets—including 500 North—were closed to through-traffic to open up public space for people to get outside.

That program, called “Stay Safe Stay Active,” was great. It cost nearly nothing to implement and prevented exactly no one from getting anywhere they needed to go. It would take little effort to resume but there’s been nary a whisper on that front, nor on the Vision Zero pedestrian safety effort that Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced more than a year ago.

But I digress. Visiting both Jackson and Guadalupe Parks in a single trip is challenging. A straight line between them would probably make for a Par 4 on a golf course, but the colossal imposition of Interstate 15 requires a 1-mile detour to 300 North, the closest freeway underpass. Going over the 600 North bridge actually adds another half-mile due to the railroad, and you’re as likely as not to die in traffic if you go that way. The practical reality is that very few people go from Guadalupe Park to Jackson Park. If they did, you can bet your ass they’re driving.

It could have been built differently—further west, with fewer lanes and fewer interchanges or, since that notion is anathema to suburban motorists, with considerably more underpasses and bridges, integrated transit lines and a modicum of thought given to surrounding communities. But even when there’s an attempt to improve things, fixes tend to get shouted down.

Two opportunities are about to pass Salt Lakers by. First, the Utah Department of Transportation offered to punch a hole in the freeway berm between Guadalupe and Jackson Parks, but a vocal cohort of neighbors (particularly the handful who attend community council meetings) are fighting it tooth and nail. UDOT’s response has generally been “fine, why bother trying?” and it’s hard to blame them.

Second, the city is gearing up to rebuild 600 North and has abandoned plans for a beautiful tree-lined boulevard in favor of sticking with a 5-lane surface highway. City documents noted that traffic levels don’t justify so many lanes and surveys showed support for reducing car space—but some folks were upset, for the usual reasons.

In government, there’s a strong gravitational pull toward the status quo and unfortunately, pessimists are louder than optimists. Put another way, it takes 100 dog-walkers who want to visit a park to carry the weight of a single freeway driver. And yet, because of the freeway, the

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