Facebook Twitter



Commercial operators are split between Main and State streets as a potential location for a light-rail system, which many people believe is coming to Salt Lake City whether residents want it or not.

While Main Street received the most recommendations during a public hearing Thursday with the Salt Lake City Planning Commission, the tally shows property owners at odds.The commission called the hearing to sample public sentiment regarding a downtown corridor for a future light-rail system. Such a project, though defeated in November when voters rejected a tax increase to fund the system, won a second wind with the Clinton administration when the government instituted changes for mass-transit financing.

While city planning officials and the Utah Transit Authority maintain the system is still only a possibility, the selection of a downtown route is the next step in a UTA-sponsored study of a rail project that they say won't raise local taxes.

Route alternatives have been narrowed to Main Street, State Street and West Temple. No one sided with the West Temple route Thursday, but the remaining two options were each touted for their ability to provide access. UTA officials maintain their neutrality and say they'll go with whatever route the city selects.

A double-track Main Street route offers the most efficient design as a "people mover," said Downtown Retail Merchants President Skip Daynes. The merchants include backers like Nordstrom, ZCMI and O.C. Tanner, Daynes said.

Bob Farrington of the Downtown Alliance recommended the State Street route, saying there has not been enough consideration given to coordinating bus and rail routes.

Others countered that the State Street alignment would have passengers running between the bus and rail system to catch their next lift. Farrington said by defusing the bus and rail systems over a two-block area, the city avoids the single-street transit situation that other cities have learned to criticize.

A handful of residents avoided recommending any route and simply criticized the commission for even considering a rail system.

Salt Lake County resident Betty Christensen said access to the city center would be better served with a flexible bus hub, rather than the construction of a permanent rail system.

"It's like asking, `What do you want for breakfast? Hotcakes, hotcakes or hotcakes?" said Christensen, referring to the three route alternatives. "I shudder that the streets will be messed up."

The commission will recommend a route to the city by June 24. The City Council will also hold a public hearing before selecting a route on July 15.