By Nigel Swaby
It’s a scenario no parent ever wants to go through. While leaving the Utah State Fair on September 12, a family’s 3-year-old child was hit by a car on 300 North. Days later, two other children were hit by cars in the area. One died.
The rejuvenation of the State Fair has brought more attendees during the 10-day agricultural festival. It’s also brought more cars and more traffic. The surrounding neighborhoods are unprepared for the increase in people and traffic.
The fair saw 283,000 visitors in its 10-day run – a record number of attendees this year.
Revenue was up as well. The completion of a 10,000 seat stadium last year provides a venue attracting more people during other times of the year for events like the Days of ‘47 rodeo, music concerts and other competitions.
For many years, neighboring residents have rented out their yards for fair parking. In certain parts of the neighborhood, the increased traffic overloads the street and visitors leave garbage in resident’s yards.
This year was a tipping point. Besides the regular inconveniences of living next to the Fairpark, the accidents involving pedestrians sent a wake up call. In an October community council meeting, Mayor Biskupski brought out her leadership team to hear neighbors’ concerns. Besides the parking issue, neighbors complained about speeding along 500 North, where one of the children was struck.
A number of possible solutions were presented at the meeting – all revolving around the following major concerns: 1) The need for better traffic control at the major Fairpark entrances on 1000 W. and North Temple, 2) The need for a four-way stop at the intersection of 1000 W. and 300 N., 3) The need for marked crosswalks at 900 W. and 200 N., 4) The need for better street lighting along 300 N., 5) The possibility of banning or restricting in-yard parking, 6) The possibility of providing additional parking at the state office building (which is closed on weekends) and shuttling fair attendees, and 7) Incentivizing public transit use with free or discounted fair admission.
The traffic and parking problems during the fair aren’t unique to the west side. University of Utah football games create a similar balloon of stress with people and cars in its neighborhood. Mayor Biskupski is hoping to create a city plan to address the problem equitably.
One possible solution was almost universally disliked: permit parking for residents. The Fairpark Community Council will draft and vote on some final suggestions to be presented to the mayor for consideration in the coming months.
Hopefully next year’s fair will be successful and safer for everyone.