SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Transit Authority and Salt Lake City officials say a fence will be built between TRAX lines on 200 South along the southern edge of The Gateway shopping center to improve traffic safety.
Matthew Rojas, spokesman for the Salt Lake City Mayor's Office, said the fence is designed to discourage unsafe pedestrian behavior and is not designed to deter the homeless population from the mall.
"What we found was there was lots of jaywalking, and really it just became a safety issue," Rojas said. "According to UTA, there have been a few near misses with bus traffic and TRAX traffic. There's never been an accident there. That's why we kind of want to be a little more proactive."
Arizona-based real estate firm Vestar, which took ownership of The Gateway in early 2016, requested a fence last spring due to "dangerous conditions at the intersection," said Jenny Cushing, the company's vice president of leasing.
"Along with the community, we voiced our concerns, and after an investigation, both the city and UTA took action, concurring it needed to be closed," Cushing said in a statement. "This is an important issue surrounding public safety. It's our job to be diligent in ensuring the safety of our patrons, employees and residents. Tthat's our top priority.”
The fence will be made of vinyl chain-link material and stand about 5 feet tall, running in between the eastbound and westbound tracks in the center of the road, Rojas said. It will extend from 400 West to 500 West.
UTA spokesman Remi Barron said Salt Lake City officials approached the agency about putting in the fence, and UTA agreed to install and pay for it.
"We try to be good partners with our cities and stakeholders and work together to reach solutions," Barron said in a statement. "The pedestrian traffic at that location presents a legitimate safety issue."
The fence "is in our right of way," making it UTA's responsibility, he said.
Rojas said the city is also chipping in a very small amount of funds to assist.
Similar fences have been built to eliminate foot traffic in multiple other areas of the city, he said, including near City Creek and the University of Utah.
"It's not an uncommon thing to have done when you have a lot of people, trains, buses, heavy traffic," Rojas said.
The city has made highly publicized efforts to relocate homelessness services away from the the Road Home shelter directly south of the affected intersection, citing criminal activity around that facility.
Asked whether the fence was intended to keep the area's homeless population away from the mall, Rojas said the Road Home's proximity is only related to the installation of the fence inasmuch as it contributes to heavy pedestrian traffic on the road.
"It's a heavily trafficked area (because of) the homeless shelter, (and) another reason is The Gateway," he said. "There's a lot of people who are going to and from The Gateway. You have the transportation hub just a few blocks down. So a lot of buses go down (200 South). And of course you have the TRAX train."
Matt Minkevitch, executive director of the Road Home, said his organization understands that the project is designed to promote safety along 200 South.
"We expect that the proposed fence is being installed to provide greater safety for pedestrians," Minkevitch told the Deseret News in an email.
The fence will make it impossible for pedestrians to jaywalk, Rojas said.
"We're just trying to encourage pedestrians to use the marked crosswalks" at 400 West and 500 West, he said.
Salt Lake City has worked with Salt Lake Cunty and state leaders to build new homeless resources centers to replace the Road Home, which is slated to close by the end of June 2019. Two locations in Salt Lake City have been selected for the shelters.
Five proposed sites in West Valley City and South Salt Lake are being considered for a third location.
Contributing: Mike Anderson