A Citizen-Led Plan Would Revamp Salt Lake’s Transit and Freeway Mix

The Rio Grande Plan would restore rail service to the Rio Grande Depot and reconnect a community divided by a freeway in Salt Lake City.

2 minute read

January 18, 2023, 10:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A pair of private citizens with engineering and design backgrounds have proposed a plan, called the Rio Grande Plan, to improve transit service and reduce freeway impacts in Salt Lake City.

An article by Benjamin Wood introduces the Rio Grande Plan, which has been gaining support among local politicians.

The idea is the brainchild of Charles Lenhart, and engineer, who experienced frustration with transfers between Trax and Frontrunner trains in 2020. “[A]fter studying successful rail rehabilitation projects around the country, he prepared a 60-page draft proposal calling for a so-called ‘train box’ along 500 West that would move freight and passenger lines underground and reactivate the historic Rio Grande Depot as a bonafide transportation hub,” writes Wood.

"The more I thought about it and looked at the grades going into the structure and going out, and how much land would actually be opened up and the way you could reduce the freeway impacts downtown, it started to seem so obvious that yes, this is the right thing to do," Lenhart is quoted as saying in the article.

After teaming up with Cameron Blakely, a designer, after posting the idea on an unnamed “message board for urban planning enthusiasts,” the duo created the final Rio Grande Plan, which is available to explore online.

Wood also reports that “while the Salt Lake City Council hasn't formally supported the plan, the city has twice applied for grant funding to study the proposal, most recently in a ‘Reconnecting Communities’ application that would explore various ways to mitigate the division between the city's east and west sides.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2023 in Salt Lake City Weekly

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