September 29, 2016

Parking & Congestion

What to expect in Sugar House in terms of parking and congestion in the coming months.

Sugar House traffic at 1100 East and 2100 South. Expect more congestion as construction completes.

Sugar House traffic at 1100 East and 2100 South. Expect more congestion as
construction completes.

You may call it congestion. The Sugar House Merchants call it business as usual.

Since the advent of automobiles, enterprising merchants have found ways to make motorists stop in the Sugar House business district. Huron Free built an auto campground on Parley’s Creek by 13th East. Fast food drive-ins and motor lodges popped up on 21st South, and gaudy signs decorated storefronts.

Public opinion was divided between those who wanted traffic to flow as quickly as possible through the area, and those who wanted motorists to pull in and shop at local businesses. A 1921 headline in the Sugar House Times cried, “Make ‘Em Stop, Folks, Make ‘Em Stop!” But to improve the flow of traffic the Sugar House Chamber of Commerce in 1952 asked city commissioners to ban parking on 21st South, and a year later, petitioned for widening the street between 11th and 12th East.

Meanwhile, the chamber advertised the abundance of free off-street parking in the town center. They published a map that showed a dozen locations where thousands of cars could park, and boasted that there were “No Parking Meters in Sugar House!”

Sixty years later, the story is the same. Despite numerous construction delays, traffic is moving in Sugar House, and there are still plenty of places to park. Two new developments on the Granite block will provide much more parking space than what will be lost if the Monument “plaza street” is closed. There is a new 114-space surface lot south of the remodeled Granite Showroom. “2100 Sugar House” and the neighboring “Sugar House Crossing” will provide multi-level parking structures in a few years, but with a twist. The general public will pay hourly or daily fees, with parking validation available from retailers. Commercial tenants will rent spaces for employee parking. The revenue from parking will help finance the cost of building the structures.

Construction work all over the district last fall made a mess of Highland Drive and McClelland St, and occasionally closed the east-bound right turn lane for 21st South, stacking traffic back to 10th East during rush hour. But as the projects approach completion, they will contribute less and less to friction on the streets.

Even with lane reductions and detours, shoppers can still get anyplace they want to go, and city transportation officials are working on ways to make circulation more efficient and safer in Sugar House. A proposed “road diet” on Highland Drive will reduce the number of north- and south-bound travel lanes, but will add a center turn lane to the street. Through-traffic may wait a little longer at the street lights, and back up a bit farther down the street, but the same number of cars will still pass through each signal cycle.

Bill Knowles is the city’s ombudsman for Sugar House construction. Knowles said, “I remember wishing we had this problem with [congestion during redevelopment on] Main Street. Here you have lots of people loving this place. That’s good for business, and that’s why businesses love being here. If there is something wrong with this place, I don’t know what it is because everyone wants to be here.”

“We need to focus on what we are going to get,” said Amy Barry, vice-chair of the Sugar House Community Council, “a great trail system, amazing stores, the streetcar, more pedestrian-focused amenities. Think about the great experience you can have here in Sugar House!”

So when you see orange, think green. These cones mean progress. People are working, getting paid, and contributing to the economy. In a growing city, there is always some kind of congestion. It’s part of life in the city.

To comment on proposals for Circulation and Streetscape Amenities in Sugar House, go to SLC’s online forum, “Open City Hall,” at http://www.slcgov.com/opencityhall