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TRAX tracks shouldn't clutter Main

Some 150 years ago, President Brigham Young led the Mormon pioneers to this valley. Called by some "The American Moses," he immediately implemented plans to build a great city. The plan, which he considered both eminently practical and divinely inspired, was the Prophet Joseph Smith's Plat of the City of Zion (1832). It was implemented in almost every detail. A prominent feature was the 132-foot wide streets.

Visit the Church History Museum west of the Temple Block. There you will see the original plats laying out the organization of Nauvoo, Salt Lake and towns across the West. Salt Lake's Main Street is the archetype for most of the Mormon-founded towns in the West through the end of the 19th century.Our wide Main Street has functioned well for 150 years. It has received compliments from thousands of admirers who wished their cities were so blessed. Considering the horse-and-buggy-era that was the backdrop for their city designs, Joseph Smith Jr. and President Young were either supremely gifted overachievers or were indeed divinely inspired.

All that is about to change. The Salt Lake City Council, The Wasatch Front Regional Council and Gov. Mike Leavitt have decided to experiment by letting UTA put two sets of rails and overhead wires down Main between South Temple and 700 South.

In place of our wide streets, we will have only two traffic lanes, leaving Salt Lake City with a narrower Main Street than Parowan or Delta but about on a par with those in Ophir or Parowan. Traffic will be tied up by those who insist on access to downtown in spite of congestion caused by TRAX trains wandering there. Salt Lake will become a more stressful, more dangerous and less hospitable place.

The decision of Salt Lake Council members to borrow a warmed-over, turn-of-the-century transportation system while ignoring the explosion of scientific and engineering accomplishments of our era vis-a-vis the possible computer and com-mun-i-ca-tions intensive, high speed, demand-operated, customer-oriented transportation systems we could build (which would preserve and enhance Main), shows them to be poorly informed and hopeless underachievers in city planning.

It is they who have decided that Brigham and Joseph were wrong. Contrast them with the Salt Lake City Council of 1890, which passed a resolution to allow any transit company to build the then-daringly new electric trolleys on any city street (but forbade the construction of the "established technology" steam engine-pulled streetcars). Contrast the puny 15-mile light-rail line with our streetcar and electric interurban network earlier this century that stretched from Payson to Malad, Idaho, along 320 miles of investor-built and user-paid trackway, including more than 150 miles in Salt Lake County.

Will we celebrate the sesquicentennial of our pioneer heritage by destroying a part of that heritage in its first and most prominent application? For pioneer values of thrift, personal responsibility, courage and clarity of purpose, will we substitute dependency, profligacy, muddled wish fulfillment, gutless failure to do a little pioneering with our amazing technological resources to solve our own problems with our own money (preferring panhandling-for-billions on the Beltway in Washington)? Is a hallmark of our state in the '90s to be to compromise our principles and character for the sake of "image," as some of our most prominent and reputedly conservative politicians and civic "leaders" are doing vis-a-vis light rail? Will this special celebration become known in future years as the sesquicentennial of shame?

Let your Utah and U.S. House and Senate representatives know you want Main Street preserved and replace light rail with the best that today's amazing technologies can provide.