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Salt Lake expected to OK 400 West route for TRAX

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The Salt Lake City Council favors construction of a light-rail route to the airport along 400 West — not 600 West — and it intends to make that clear tonight.

Nearly two years of debate over the north-south portion of a TRAX line linking the city's intermodal hub with Salt Lake City International Airport essentially will be put to rest with an expected unanimous vote of the council in support of the 400 West alignment.

A proposed ordinance to enter into an agreement with the Utah Transit Authority on design, construction and ownership of the TRAX line includes stated approval of the light-rail extension running north along 400 West to North Temple and then west to the airport.

"After careful study, I think the council is probably unanimous that it needs to go on (400 West)," Councilman Van Turner said.

Six council members reached for comment Monday said they support the 400 West alignment, including Luke Garrott. The first-year councilman had been an advocate for the 600 West alignment, saying the TRAX line could be used as a catalyst for transit-oriented development of the corridor.

Garrott's stance on the 400 West alignment fell more into line with his colleagues late last week when council members and city staff came up with a way to move forward with the 400 West alignment while incorporating Garrott's vision for 600 West.

In addition to stating an alignment preference for the TRAX line, the council plans to make clear its intentions to study 600 West as a bus transit corridor that would connect North Temple with 800 West and the intermodal hub. Garrott envisions a dedicated bus lane — much like bus rapid transit — on 600 West.

Another legislative intent of the council is to have the city's Community and Economic Development Department put together a proposal addressing funding requirements and a timeline for adopting small-area plans and rezoning requirements for both sides of 600 West and the area around the intermodal hub.

"The drama about the alignment has largely been diffused," he said. "It's kind of a win-win situation that I hope everyone is on board with."

A group of west-side residents has been actively opposing the 600 West alignment, largely because of the viaduct it would require to cross commuter rail lines near South Temple.

The other option was to take the line underground, which city officials said would add at least $50 million to the project's price tag. The city already must come up with $35 million for the TRAX line.

Residents have spoken out at several public hearings, saying the 600 West alignment would increase traffic and crime, harm views from their homes and place another physical and sociological barrier between the city's east and west sides.

"I think you have to live by a viaduct to really understand how people feel about them," Turner said. "If you have one in your front yard, it's tough."

Jill Remington Love, City Council chairwoman, said the residents made their voices heard loud and clear, and that played a role in shaping the council's decision.

In the end, however, the 400 West alignment simply makes the most sense, Love said.

"While 600 West may make more sense from an efficiency standpoint, there doesn't seem to be a solution that keeps that community intact," she said. "It either has to be a viaduct or a tunnel at this point. Neither of those are options we can afford or that would work."

Calls to Councilman Eric Jergensen for comment Monday were not returned. Jergensen previously has stated his support for the 400 West alignment, making tonight's vote likely unanimous.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com