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U.P. should fulfill its promise

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In 1989, Union Pacific Railroad made a promise to the residents of Salt Lake City. In a signed contract, U.P. promised that if it ever failed to utilize its tracks on 900 South for more than nine consecutive months, Salt Lake City could require U.P. to remove the tracks from city streets and terminate the agreement. U.P. also promised that under any circumstances, the permission for U.P. to cross city streets would expire in 2003. Now, U.P. refuses to abide by the agreement it signed, seeking to avoid its promises through legal maneuvering.

The Deseret News editorial board (Dec. 8) asserts that Glendale and Poplar Grove residents should simply accept the outcome of the 900 South rail dispute with Union Pacific. The editorial also infers that Salt Lake City is being obstructionist and has somehow failed to explore compromise solutions. These baseless assertions lead to the impression that the Deseret News cares more about appeasing big business than representing the concerns of our community and the families who live here.

Salt Lake representatives have met with Union Pacific officials on several occasions, most recently on Nov. 19. We have expressed interest in pursuing several compromises. However, U.P.'s representatives have been unwilling to consider other options that would avoid the irreparable damage their actions will inflict on the quality of life of hundreds of families.

For instance, we asked U.P. to consider a partnership with the city and UTA to reconfigure the Grant Tower curves behind the Gateway development to allow for greater freight capacity, which would obviate the need for capacity expansion along 900 South. They refused this offer but acknowledged that the work would need to be done in the next 10-15 years.

In a recent article, a Union Pacific representative claimed, "We care." Yes, U.P. cares about its bottom line.

After years of neglecting this rail corridor, U.P. has finally decided it wants to be a neighbor again — decidedly not a good neighbor but an obstinate bully who will undermine the quality of life for all who have tolerated U.P.'s neglected, weed-infested land over the years.

The Deseret News asserts that the residents should simply accept the outcome. Apparently, the editorial board lacks an appreciation for the impact this railroad line will inflict on Poplar Grove and Glendale residents. When four- to six-car trains ran in years past, the vibration of the trains caused residents' pictures to fall off the walls, broke filaments in residents' light bulbs and shook drywall screws out of the walls.

With the arrival of ten 100-car freight trains per day, residents will face exponentially greater impacts.

The Deseret News claims people who move into neighborhoods with existing tracks, even if those tracks are seldom used or dormant, need to expect that at some point they may be used again.

A homebuyer may have a responsibility to inspect the home he or she is buying for defects and investigate any surrounding conditions to determine whether they might affect the condition or value of the home.

Many residents say they did exactly that. They asked their real estate agents and the sellers about the status of the tracks. They were consistently assured that the tracks were not used and would be abandoned soon and turned into a trail.

Salt Lake City and the residents of Glendale and Poplar Grove fully acknowledge the need to promote and preserve interstate rail commerce. We have no desire to harm Union Pacific's reasonable business opportunities. But we must also recognize that U.P. has chosen to create an active freight line through the heart of one of the city's most economically challenged neighborhoods.

Mayor Rocky Anderson stands behind the residents of the Glendale and Poplar Grove neighborhoods and will continue to make every effort to protect our community from Union Pacific's selfish and destructive actions.

D.J. Baxter is senior adviser to Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson