A traffic calming and beautification test area at 600 North and 1200 West — part of a larger transportation study of the 600/700 North corridor — has caused confusion and numerous complaints.
Using paint, logs, signs and delineator posts, the test area — which has since been dismantled — was designed to show residents in the area the kinds of things that can be done to calm traffic and improve walkability at a 600 North commercial hub, said Kyle Cook, project manager and Salt Lake City transportation engineer.
As part of the test area, a sign announcing the 600/700 North Mobility, Safety and Transportation Study listed a toll-free number to call for comments, said Cook, noting that most of the comments were negative and were overwhelmingly about the temporary elimination of turning lanes in and out of the neighborhood.
“From the phone calls we found out quickly that residents don’t want to give up their turning lanes,” said Cook, “and this is not something that we plan to do.”
“The 600/700 corridor has long provided a gateway to several neighborhoods and serves as a convenient way for west-side neighbors and others to access the downtown,” said Corky Reeser, chair of the Salt Lake City Transportation Advisory Board and member of the Rose Park Community Council, “but it does not promote pedestrian, bike or transit safety and has no cohesiveness or identity. The project at 600 North and 1200 West was always meant to be temporary and developed to show the different kinds of things that can be done to beautify an area and cause drivers to slow down and take a look around. I think that from this perspective the test area was a success.”
According to the Salt Lake City government webpage the study area goes from West Capitol Street to 2200 West. The first scenario calls for the continuation of the existing five lanes along the 600/700 North corridor with only minor changes, such as the possible implementation of pedestrian islands in the median, easier pedestrian access – especially at commercial hubs – and improved bike lanes.
Scenario two calls for a greenery and art median down the middle of 600 North between 900 West and Redwood Road, with traffic reduced to one lane going each way and including room for left turn lanes. In addition, there would be improvements for bike and pedestrian safety and bus turnouts.
The third scenario calls for a public green area on one side of the road and road reduction to two lanes going each way, along with keeping the existing middle median and left turn lanes. Bike and pedestrian safety are also addressed.
“We want to make sure that everyone interested in the study has the opportunity to participate,” said Cook. “This study began in February (2020) and we had plans to go out and make presentations to the neighborhoods and at city events. But then COVID hit, and all our information and meetings had to be done virtually. So, it’s no wonder that people are not aware the study is underway and were confused about the test area.”
Cook said that 600/700 North is nowhere near capacity for an arterial street and that new guidelines for traffic in the city call for more than just moving cars from one block to the next.
Reeser said that if something isn’t done, neighborhood streets like 600 North will become like freeways with no care for the people living on and around such corridors. “The majority of 600/700 North is residential, but there is no neighborhood friendliness or safety. We would like to change this,” said Reeser.
In January, according to Cook, the study will be augmented with specific traffic-calming concepts and a public questionnaire. Information on a previous survey and input from the questionnaire, along with recommendations, will be available by the spring of 2021.
“What I am estimating is that we will be making changes over time in small increments,” said Cook, noting that some funding for the traffic calming project has already been allocated and will probably start with better pedestrian access at the 600 North I-15 Interchange.
“The bottom line is how do we make the 600/700 North corridor work adequately for pedestrians, bikes, buses and cars,” said Reeser.
West-side residents who use the 600/700 North corridor are asked to go online at www.slc.gov/transportation/600north/ to learn more about the traffic mobility study, said Cook, noting that the study is also available in Spanish. Residents can also email the team directly at . Those without computer access can call (801) 535-6630 to get information and make comments.
The test area supplies were donated by Spin, an e-scooter company doing business in the city.