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Controversy over a road closure in Salt Lake, neighbors at odds

Residents and businesses hae differing views on new rules that allow pedestrian traffic on some city streets. Stratford Ave. Photo Courtesy KSL-TV

SALT LAKE CITY — The new Stay Safe, Stay Active Streets Initiative has neighbors disagreeing about the recent road closure of Stratford Avenue in Salt Lake. 

Jon Larsen, the director of Salt Lake City’s transportation department, says the plan to close neighborhood roads was created as he tried to think of ways to make outdoor neighborhood recreation safer.

“What can we do … to make it easy for people to be able to safely stay active in their neighborhood?” he said. “As a city, we’re trying to make an effort to keep people safe and healthy.”

Some neighbors want the road to re-open

Those against the idea say that there is a sidewalk between 1300 East and 2000 East on Stratford Avenue and that it’s sending the wrong message to kids and adults alike to play in the road, instead. Neighbors are also concerned about the ability for emergency vehicles to get through since road signs now block their way. 

 “I think there’s two sides to it, but I would have liked to vote on it,” said resident Chris Maez.

Larsen says that instead of a vote, the city conducted a weeklong survey to which more than 6,000 residents responded. “We really felt like it was important to get community feedback before doing it,” Larsen said. 

It turned out to be the most popular feedback survey in the history of the city.” 

Other neighbors like the closure

Proponents think the road closure is a great way to get people outside.  They say the extra space offers a better opportunity for social distancing. Some even hope this is a permanent change. 

“Feels nice and safe to run,” said one resident.

Other neighbors say the signs slow down traffic on the residential road that has a posted speed of 25 mph. Despite the signs, they say the speed limit is rarely followed.

“Well, speed is a huge problem,” said Jennifer Jacobson, a resident of 27 years. 

Businesses share this street with residents

Businesses are also impacted by the new street closure.  One of those businesses is a restaurant, Stratford Proper.

“We’ve had some questions regarding the road closure on Stratford Ave – we haven’t been provided information on this, nor do we have any updates, but you ARE allowed to drive on Stratford and access Stratford may be easiest via Hartford and Glenmare,” the restaurant posted on their Facebook page.

“We hope y’all don’t experience too much inconvenience with this situation and thank you for your continued support of local businesses!”

The results

One neighbor that wanted to remain anonymous said that a pedestrian yelled at her, spit, and banged on her car as she was trying to get through. She added that people being out recreating hadn’t been an issue until the city opened the road to pedestrians. 

While KSL-TV was there reporting the story they heard someone yell, “Get off the street!” Others told KSL they are happy with the change.

“One of the best parts about it is it’s brought people outside their houses,” resident Jennifer Jacobson said, “and they’re enjoying being outside again.”

City leaders say that the roads are still open to residents as well as drivers that need to access the businesses.