Sep 27, 2023 - News

Scoop: A Salt Lake City Council member's fight against stopped trains

A man grills steaks in front of a stopped train.

Salt Lake City Council Member Alejandro Puy pretends to grill steaks in front of a stalled freight train. Photo courtesy: Salt Lake City

A Salt Lake City Council member launched a campaign today to raise awareness around an issue that's frustrated West-siders for decades: stalled freight trains.

What's happening: Alejandro Puy, who represents the neighborhoods of Glendale, Poplar Grove and portions of Fairpark, told Axios it's a "crippling" issue that disproportionately disrupts the daily lives of people living on the west side.

  • Throughout the campaign, which does not currently have an end date, Puy hopes to collect hundreds of stories from residents and visitors about their experiences with halted trains.
  • He plans to send the input to Union Pacific, state and federal officials.

Why it matters: Puy said he's heard stories of residents missing job interviews or taking their children to school late due to stopped trains, which can last anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour.

The big picture: As rail companies look to cut costs and improve efficiency, trains are growing longer, with some extending up to three miles, the Washington Post reports.

Zoom in: A halted train obstructed an intersection last Thursday near the Union Event Center in Salt Lake City following a Reneé Rapp concert.

  • Axios Salt Lake City witnessed a crowd of about 10 concertgoers waiting to cross the street to get their cars parked on the other side.
  • After several minutes, two people hopped over the train cars, and the rest followed, despite the risk that the train could start moving at any moment.
  • "Once a train starts to move, it doesn't move softly. You could be knocked out of the train very quickly and hurt yourself," Puy said.

Details: While the concerns are serious, Puy is taking a humorous approach to bring attention to the issue.

  • He released photos as part of the campaign in front of a halted train pretending to enjoy a picnic, grilling steaks in the 45 minutes it took for the train to move.

State of play: Citywide, infrastructure projects designed to reduce the impact of stopped trains are ongoing.

  • An $8.5-million pedestrian bridge near West High School that overlooks multiple rail lines is nearly complete and set to open later this year, Utah Transit Authority spokesperson Carl Arky told Axios.
  • Salt Lake City partnered with UTA, Union Pacific, Wasatch Front Regional Council and the Utah Department of Transportation on the project.
  • The City Council this year allotted $150,000 to install signage at up to three crossings that alert drivers and pedestrians how long a train will take to pass through.

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