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Salt Lake City Council move forward in Sugar House streetcar expansion

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Posted at 10:25 PM, Sep 02, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-03 00:25:56-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Salt Lake City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to match funds for a transportation grant they hope to be awarded, which would allow for the expansion the Sugar House streetcar line.

City council members approved to pay $3 million toward the project if they receive the grant. The grant would cover $11 million of the S-Line expansion.

Other cities are competing for the same federal money and a decision on the project won't  be finalized until the end of September.

Ridership on the street car line isn't living up to its hype, but the city still wants the federal funding to expand. The money however doesn't come without any strings attached, and the plan has residents upset all over again.

"We are not interested in a street car, and definitely not interested in an addition to the streetcar that doesn't already work," said Eliza James who has been a vocal critic of the Sugar House streetcar line since the start.

Now a new battle is brewing.

"If you lived and breathed this street you would know that this is the wrong street," James said, whose business, Boxing is for Girls is nestled in the heart of the historic district.

The S-Line currently runs from the TRAX central station at 2100 South and 200 West, to 1050 East and 2250 South. The two-mile route cost $37 million to construct and the ridership has been rather low since its debut in December.

"Sometimes it's busy sometimes it's not busy at all," said rider Josh Fox.

Despite dismal ridership numbers, the city officials want to expand.

Three million dollars in exchange for a matching federal grant that would pump $14 million into the proposed extension, which would run a few blocks at 2100 South and 1100 East.

"The streetcar, or the S line as we call it, is currently like a body without a head on it. Where it terminates it doesn't make a lot of sense. It doesn't come into the heart of Sugarhouse," said Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall who represents District 5.

With a thousand new residential units being built, some think extending the street car line will help struggling business boom.

"No, it'd bring business. Barnes and Noble is across the street. Sugarhouse is a wonderful place to shop," said UTA rider Rich Knudsen.

Not everyone sees it that way. Things got heated during the Tuesday afternoon work session.

"I think without a commitment from UTA to extend those hours I don't see any point in funding more track that won't be used," said Councilwoman Lisa Adams who represents District 7.

Some council members wasted no time raising their concerns, referring to the scathing UTA audit released last week.

"I do think it's easy to jab at UTA and I think a lot of times the jabs are warranted," said Councilman Charlie Luke representing District 6.

During the evening meeting, familiar faces were in the crowd, like James, voicing their frustrations too.

"It doesn't make sense to us because we don't know the plan, we're interested as a people to be involved in the plan," James said.