SALT LAKE CITY — Tens of thousands of cars use 300 West from 900 South to 2100 South daily.
As an economic hub almost hidden in plain sight, it's a section of the city that many residents and people who commute into Salt Lake City use on a regular basis. But it's also a section that can be difficult to manage with its disrepair — so much so that Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall says it's a spot people avoid traveling through if they can.
"Right here on 300 West is one of the greatest opportunities in the entire city, and I think all along the Wasatch Front," she said as several cars whizzed by 300 West behind her. "We have one of the highest tax revenue returns right here on the 300 West corridor, but you wouldn't know it to look at the streets."
That's why city officials narrowed in on this section of the city as a part of an $87 million bond approved by residents in 2018.
About $18 million of the Funding Our Future road construction bond will go toward a complete overhaul of 300 West from 900 South to 2100 South. By fall 2022, the busy section of the roadway will look completely different.
The project's goal is to make the section of the city safer and more accessible, especially for pedestrians and bikers.
Mendenhall, Salt Lake City Councilman Darin Mano and other city officials signaled the beginning of the reconstruction project Tuesday, dragging orange traffic barrels on the road in lieu of a more traditional groundbreaking ceremony.
The revamped street will have two-way protected bike lanes running side by side and adjacent east of the roadway along the 12-block section of the street. A park strip will divide the road from the bike lanes. Mendenhall explained Tuesday that surveys indicate that a protected bike lane alone improves an individual's comfort riding a bike from "single-digit percentages" to over 80%.
One sidewalk will be placed east of the bike lane, and the west sidewalk will also have a park strip that separates it from the road. Two new crosswalks will be added at Andrew Avenue (1515 South) and American Avenue (960 South) to help people safely cross the street in more areas than just 900 South, 1300 South, 1700 South and 2100 South, which is the current situation.
It may sound simple, but it's a dramatic change — especially for the people who call this 'home' and their neighborhood corridor.
–Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall
About 1,745 feet of missing sidewalk in the section of 300 West will also be filled in so sidewalks will exist throughout the 12-block section. That's another problem with the current sidewalk situation.
"Not many Salt Lakers would even dream of walking down 300 West, whether they're going to Walmart, the wine store or Home Depot, up to Target — there's inconsistency in the sidewalks at best," Mendenhall said. "Some of them are at a pretty dramatic, steep grade sideways. And then driveways that consume the sidewalks with different development. … It may sound simple, but it's a dramatic change — especially for the people who call this 'home' and their neighborhood corridor."
Meanwhile, Mano said the city will also finally get around to filling in potholes and fixing the street following "decades of deferred street maintenance." The city will also install raised medians/islands in "strategic locations" of the center lane as a safety feature. The road will have two lanes all the way through.
About 21,000 vehicles travel on the stretch of the 300 West daily. It's a section that includes big businesses like Costco, Home Depot, Lowe's, Target and Walmart, as well as smaller businesses, apartments and homes; and it's just a block away from a couple of I-15 access points.
At the same time, it's also a vital section essentially connecting Salt Lake City's 9-Line and Parleys recreation trails, which the bike and sidewalks could also help with. All of the current parts of the roadway between 900 South and 2100 South are what made the project more important to the city.
"(300 West) will be safe, convenient and comfortable for all modes of transportation," Mano said.
Construction that began Tuesday was for the west side of the street. It's expected to continue through the end of 2021.
Intermittent work is expected for the east side of 300 West this year, but most east-side construction is anticipated to begin next year before it's completed in October 2022. Updates on the project can be found on a website the city set up.
"All in all, with the transformation that's about to take place, it's a relatively quick project," Mendenhall said.
The $87 million bond approved in 2018 also went to several other projects, including public transit improvements and affordable housing.