Street car proposal closer to being a reality

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SUGAR HOUSE -- Sugar House is far from its potential these days. A stalled project in the heart of the neighborhood has deflated morale a bit.

But At Omar's Rawtopia restaurant---one of the few places offering nothing but raw food--there is a spark of hope at word of street cars coming to the area.

"I think it's a very good idea to have public transportation to bring people here," restaurant owner Omar Abou-Ismail said.

Salt Lake City officials are using Portland, Ore., as a guide to shape the idea for Sugar House. City officials traveled there to get a firsthand look last week.

Portland Streetcars began running in July, 2001. Today they run on an 8-mile continuous loop averaging close to [12,000 boardings per day]( The streetcars, which carry up to 140 passengers, run approximately every 12 minutes Monday through Saturday. There are 46 stops located about every 3-4 blocks. The cars are about 8 feet wide and 66 feet long (a typical light rail car is 75 to 95 feet long). They operate as single cars, never couple into trains and are not separated from traffic or given traffic-signal priority, except for certain turns. This amounts to longer travel times. Prices run from $.95 to $2.00 outside the free far zone. Construction of a second line is due to begin soon. -*[Portland Streetcar](*
Mayor Ralph Becker says it was a valuable excursion, seeing an $80 million investment that has sparked $3 billion worth of development. He says he's glad he saw it in person. "There's a reality that you get that is much different than you would get if you were reading it in a report," Becker said.

In Salt Lake City, the street car line would run from the TRAX station at 2100 South, east to Sugar House. The alignment is around 2225 South, near Sugarmont Avenue, and would end at Highland Avenue.

To pay for it, Salt Lake City is pushing for federal stimulus grants and to create a public-private partnership. The total cost would be between $45 million and $50 million, but the payoff could bring something greater.

"The city is making an important infrastructure development that's going to spur returns on that investment," Becker said.

"After the buildings are built and the stores are up and running, it could be back to normal; and the tracks could help bring Sugar House back to life," Abou-Ismail said.

If the city is able to get the funding together, construction could begin next year and cars could be running as soon as 2012.


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Richard Piatt


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