North Temple Street in Salt Lake City is in the midst of a $250-million extreme makeover to prepare for an extension of the Utah Transit System’s TRAX light rail that will run 6 miles from the downtown Intermodal Transit Hub to Salt Lake City International airport.

In addition to construction of the new light-rail line, Salt Lake City planners have taken the opportunity to install new utilities and make multiple other improvements to the street, including new lighting and sidewalks. North Temple serves as a main surface-street connection from the airport to the city but has long been a troubled area with pockets of undeveloped lots, empty buildings, vagrancy and crime.

“The plan is to make this a new main entrance to the city,” says Mike Howard, construction coordinator for the project’s general contractor, Alameda, Calif.-based Stacy and Witbeck Inc., which has partnered with Kiewit Western Co. of Omaha, Neb. to deliver the project. “They (city officials) are calling it ‘a grand boulevard.’”

Howard says the team is still on target to meet a 2013 completion date.

In one part of the job, an 84-in. concrete storm drain replaces a cast-in-place pipe that has been in place since 1909 and serves as the main drainage for downtown Salt Lake City and City Creek. Farther east on the same street, work is underway on replacement of a viaduct that crosses the Union Pacific rail yard and had been in place nearly 50 years.

Along with the massive new storm drain, new utility and fiber-optic lines are being installed, and the electrical lines that once ran overhead are being buried.

A Better Bridge

In all, four bridges will be replaced along the street. Three are water crossings, but the largest and most complex is at the northeast end of the line where a four-lane traffic viaduct crosses an active railroad corridor and yard owned by Union Pacific.

Howard says initial plans were to construct a bridge for light rail alongside the existing viaduct.

“That is when the city got involved,” he adds. “The thinking was why have a new bridge along with this one that is already 45 years old?”

Stakeholders with property near the bridge such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; the Boyer Co., a property development and management group; and restaurant owner Gastronomy Inc. joined the effort to change the design. They contributed nearly $5 million to have the bridge relocated slightly west.

The redesigned bridge now includes sidewalks, a bike lane and other amenities in addition to the light-rail and traffic lanes. There will also be a pedestrian connection from a platform for UTA’s Frontrunner commuter rail train below to a light-rail stop on top of the structure.

Kevin McFall, vice president with Stacy and Witbeck, says that even though plans for the light-rail bridge were already approved and in progress, the team met with city and UTA officials about 18 months ago and renegotiated that portion of the contract.