If light rail ever comes to Salt Lake City, the tracks will run down the middle of Main Street.
In an unanimous decision Thursday night, the City Council voted to allow the Utah Transit Authority to run double tracks down the middle of Main Street for a downtown light-rail system."All we're saying right now," said Ron Whitehead, "is if light rail comes to Salt Lake, Main Street is our choice (for the route)."
That decision comes on the heels of a colorful public hearing held in the City Council chambers July 7. Members of The Downtown Alliance, a special service district made up of central business-district property owners, pleaded with the council to delay its decision.
Business leaders warned the council that a decision now could thwart efforts to unite support for light rail. At the public hearing, business and property owners told council members that the alliance is divided on where the tracks should be.
But the City Council decided it had heard and studied the issue enough.
"I think we understand the issue before us," Whitehead said. "I don't know how long we want to discuss or debate this."
Anticipating the council's decision to move ahead with the vote, the Downtown Alliance sent a letter to the council outlining issues they'd like to see addressed. The group also pleaded with the council to put off a vote until Aug. 3, while members studied the proposals.
"The Downtown Alliance was originally given information that, due to cost restraints, the proposed route downtown would be a single track only," the letter said. With one track, the alliance voted to throw its weight behind a State Street route, with a possible loop down Main Street.
"Within the last 60 days, the proposed single-track system has now changed into a double track on Main Street," the letter said. "The Downtown Alliance, and most individual business and property owners, have not had an adequate amount of time to review the implications of the double-track proposal; many are against a Main Street alignment, and therefore the alliance has yet to take a position on an alignment."
Council member Don Hale said he thought laying the tracks on Main Street would be a boon to downtown businesses and a catalyst for development. Member Tom Godfrey added that Main Street is mainly a route for buses now.
"Most people know if you drive down Main Street, you've gotten yourself into trouble," Godfrey said. "You only make that mistake once."