Creating a "Main Street" Feel Along Fort Union Blvd.

Creating a "Main Street" Feel Along Fort Union Blvd.
Posted on 01/04/2016

Can Fort Union Boulevard be improved in ways that will decrease traffic, invite pedestrians and bikes, and include beautiful landscaping? According to the Fort Union working group, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

Over the course of several weeks, nearly 40 Cottonwood Heights residents and property owners met with officials from the city’s community and economic development department to discuss ways to make the Fort Union corridor more appealing and functional for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Participants were divided into three groups and tasked with recreating a section of the heavily used road that runs from Union Park Avenue to the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon.

The group spent time walking along the corridor, noting its strengths, weaknesses and dangers-- but they also noticed its potential.

“When I first started looking closely at Fort Union, I noticed electric poles on both sides of the street, small sidewalks, a number of driveways and a lack of shade or trees,” said working group participant and Cottonwood Heights resident Nancy Hardy.

The groups discussed pedestrian-friendly features like benches, streetlights, wider sidewalks, offset crosswalks and landscaped medians, while painted bike lanes were added to encourage cyclists to use Fort Union Boulevard.

At the end of the discussions, each group presented their ideas for Fort Union. Surprisingly, the results were all very similar. Each group’s design included 5-foot bike lanes, a plan for medians and wider sidewalks. A couple of plans incorporated on-street parking and all proposals called for a reduction in speed along the corridor.

“We have been a little unhappy about the status of Fort Union for quite some time,” said participant and Cottonwood Heights resident Jim Butterfield. “We felt like there wasn't much that could be done and there wasn't much will in the city to change things. Through our participation we have found confidence that there are answers and there is a willingness in the city to improve and beautify one of our main streets.”

Many participants hope that by slowing down the traffic on Fort Union, drivers using the corridor as a pass-through to Big Cottonwood Canyon would instead choose to travel along I-215, leaving Fort Union for people who live, dine and shop in the city.

CED Director Brian Berndt said, “With plans for more development coming to the city, we know traffic is going to increase. What we wanted to do with this group is determine ways we can get ahead of that increase, and plan for it. We heard over and over again that the residents want Fort Union to be a visually-pleasing corridor that invites all kinds of uses, something that increases safety and creates a place where people want to be.”

Hardy agreed, saying, “At the completion of the focus group [we all wanted to see] improved beautification along Fort Union and a creation of a destination place with local restaurants, unique shops and a local gathering area.”