Why Salt Lake City officials don’t expect major transportation delays during busy construction year

Why Salt Lake City officials don’t expect major transportation delays during busy construction year

(Keith Johnson, KSL, File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — You don’t have to go far within downtown Salt Lake City to find construction zones for new buildings.

Those building the new Convention Center Hotel, which will be a 26-story tower located at 200 S. West Temple, broke ground on the project Friday. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced earlier this week that it was in the process of decommissioning the Salt Lake Temple, as the construction of a four-year project to renovate the building and Temple Square begins.

Meanwhile, construction is ongoing for buildings slated at 95 S. State and 151 S. State. That’s just a few of the most noticeable projects in Salt Lake City this year.

Dee Brewer, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, told the Deseret News last year that he anticipated the city's skyline would change over the next decade "as downtown area densifies and as more people live downtown."

It's not just skyscrapers, either.

“We have a lot of 4-to 6-story condominium complexes, as well," said Salt Lake City transportation director Jon Larsen, who listed off a few other projects either underway or about to begin within or around downtown Salt Lake, such as a housing project next to the city's public safety building.

"It’s a lot, and there’s a lot more in the pipeline,” he continued.

Even with so many projects underway at the same time and where covered pedestrian walkways can now be found across the city, Larsen doesn’t believe it will completely snarl transportation around downtown for motorists and pedestrians alike.

That's because the city and partnering agencies work with developers and contractors to find the best way to eliminate transportation headaches as construction goes on. The two sides coordinate any lane closures, sidewalk closures and providing covered pedestrian walkways. That includes having construction done during lighter traffic periods.

It hasn't seemed to affect public transportation much downtown either. Utah Transportation Authority bus stops in construction areas have been moved away from construction.

"If they want to close a sidewalk or a travel lane or even parking, they have to go through us," Larsen said.

He explained the two sides negotiate between sidewalk and street closures that contractors request with the city ensuring they give contractors enough space to safely work. Since the city is aware of all the projects going on and what has been approved in the city, officials are able to know how to spread out some of the inconveniences residents might find from the construction so they aren't stacked up across downtown.

"We're always trying to balance safety and convenience," Larsen said. "Some projects will have covered walkways for the sidewalks and other projects, we'll actually allow them to close the sidewalk and force the pedestrians across the street. We try to avoid that but, in some cases, that's really our only option.

"It does help that we have a really good street grid," he added. "We rarely allow a full street closure. If we do, we try to limit it to as short of a time as possible. Usually, we'll allow them, at most, to take maybe one lane of traffic — often they just take the shoulder or parking."

So while the city continues to undergo construction this year, city officials reassure you won't be stuck in gridlock.

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.


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