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BUSINESSES, RESIDENTS LOCK BUMPERS OVER I-15 INTERCHANGE

SHARE BUSINESSES, RESIDENTS LOCK BUMPERS OVER I-15 INTERCHANGE

An I-15 interchange at North Temple in Salt Lake City would mean the decline and fall of area neighborhoods, but if the ramp isn't built, a similar demise would face businesses, say those on opposite sides of the issue.

Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis recently asked the City Council to issue a formal opinion on its position on the interchange, a position the council previously has been reluctant to divulge.The divisive issue, the subject of two previous public hearings that have brought throngs of citizens to testify before the council, will appear on a special City Council agenda Thursday night.

DePaulis said he wants council input on the issue so he can bring a recommendation to the Wasatch Front Regional Council, the multigovernment group that must tell the Legislature whether it wants an interchange.

Neighborhood residents say the interchange, which could result in 7,400 cars using the ramp at its peak hour in the year 2010, according engineering estimates, would turn residential areas into traffic-clogged commuting zones.

"There would be significant changes in traffic patterns around 900 West, 300 North and the intersection at North Temple and 300 West," said Stan Penfold, president of the Salt Lake Area Community Council.

Traffic on Second Avenue also could increase as a result of University of Utah students and employees traveling from the interchange to the campus, according to a study commissioned by the regional council.

While neighborhood activists are opposed to the interchange, businesses see the off-ramp as a conduit for clients.

Last month, the Transportation Implementation Council, a group formed by Salt Lake County government and the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, came out in favor of the interchange.

Also, several businesses on North Temple report a 10 percent to 15 percent decline in business since I-80 opened in 1986 and diverted traffic from the once economically vibrant area. An interchange would bring back that business, they say.

The split between businesses and residents over the issue once left Councilwoman Florence Bittner, who represents the North Temple area in the city's northwest quadrant, in a quandary over which bloc to support.

Now, however, Bittner says she opposes the interchange.

"Since the last time we considered the issue, there have been some changes on North Temple," Bittner said.

I-80 is closed for one year from Redwood Road to I-15. Many motorists are using North Temple as a detour route. A new segment of I-215 opened this summer, bringing more business traffic into the northwest quadrant, Bittner said.

"I think a lot of the stress that the businesses on North Temple has been alleviated. . . . Now I really think that I probably am leaning not to favor the interchange," Bittner said.

DePaulis has maintained an officially neutral position, waiting for the council to issue a recommendation. Personally, DePaulis said Monday he is opposed to an interchange.

"It may provide some direct access to the downtown, but the grid lock problems may be enormous around Temple Square," he said.

"We feel more comfortable holding out for light rail along with an understanding that improvements have to be made (to I-15). But this (an interchange) is not something that needs to be made in the short term. It could be re-evaluated in the future," DePaulis said.

The City Council will discuss the issue in council chambers Thursday night in the City-County Building, 451 S. State.