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SALT LAKE CITY — The ambitious Parleys Trail project in Salt Lake County took a challenging turn Wednesday underneath 1300 East at Sugarhouse Park.
"This really is the centerpiece of the whole Parleys Trail," said Walt Gilmore, the project director for Salt Lake County.
Residents may have noticed the construction at the intersection of 1300 East and 2100 South. Construction crews started to tunnel under 1300 East at the west end of the park Wednesday.
Traffic restrictions began in July for prep work, but the tunneling will continue seven days a week, until the digging is completed in December. The $10.5 million tunnel was funded federally with a 20 percent local match in 2005, and funding for the Sugar House phase of trail was approved by voters in November 2012.
The tunnel itself is called "The Draw" and is a key component for Parleys Trail, which aims to link neighborhoods with a multi-use trail from the mouth of Parleys Canyon to the Jordan River Trail. Construction workers said it is a tough job tunneling under one of the busiest streets in the city.
"This will be the opening of the tunnel," Gilmore said.
When complete, The Draw will feature a plaza shaped like a sego lily.
"We'll have three-dimensional lily petals, which will lead you right into the tunnel," Gilmore said.
The trail in Sugarhouse Park will tie in with the sego lily artwork on the west end of the park. The tunnel will be 45 feet wide on the Sugar House side, and narrows to 25 feet wide on the Hidden Hollow side.
"To see it actually start to come together is incredible," said Juan Arce-Larreta who has spearheaded work on the trail since it was just a dream, more than 20 years ago. "There have been so many hurdles and so many struggles."
Arce-Larreta showed off the newly paved asphalt section of the trail in Sugarhouse Park with his kids. It will open for cyclists and runners in two weeks.
"You'll be able to use this trail to go from 1700 East down to 1300 East," he said.
The trail skirts the southern and western edges of Sugarhouse Park before crossing under 1300 East into Hidden Hollow and the Sugar House Business District.
The bridge over I-215 and the trail through Tanner Park opened in 2010. Negotiations are currently underway with UDOT for an alignment to link the section in Sugarhouse Park with the section in Tanner Park. The entire trail should eventually link neighborhoods, parks and schools from Parleys Canyon to the Jordan River without cyclists having to ride in traffic.
"The fact that they're punching underneath 1300 east, as we speak, it's been a long time coming," Arce-Larreta said.
The traffic restrictions on 1300 East will shift to the other side of the road next month and will remain in that configuration until December.
The tunnel will open to cyclists and pedestrians during the spring of 2014.