UTA's "S" Line, A Railroad Reactivation

Utah Transit Authority, or UTA's, S Line, otherwise known as the Sugar House Streetcar, is an example of a railroad line reactivated post abandonment. 

The streetcar runs a 2 mile back and forth route in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City along a once abandoned Denver & Rio Grande Western/Union Pacific right of way known simply as the Sugarhouse Branch. It connects to Central Pointe Station, where riders can connect to the rest of Salt Lake City's light rail system.

Image: Robert Holman, 2014

The line was passed down to Union Pacific, who abandoned the line in 2005. Much earlier, the line actually connected Salt Lake City with Park City along a similar path that I-80 follows in the Parley's Canyon. (Right of way - make sure the reactivations layer is checked to view this line, it is turned off by default)

The project of converting the line into a streetcar began construction in 2009, and opened in 2013. Some of the former rails are still located adjacent to the streetcar line, a relic of the line’s history. When it opened, its name was changed from the Sugar House Streetcar, as it was called in planning documents, to simply the "S" Line. SLC Mayor Ralph Becker explained that the "The S Line was named in honor of the streetcar's two founding cities, Salt Lake and South Salt Lake, as well as the Sugar House neighborhood it calls home."

I personally think that the Sugar House Streetcar is a much better name for the project and adds a ton of character, but that's two cents from someone who hasn't stepped foot into the State of Utah for nine years now.

Image: Robert Holman, 2014.

The project is in the same light as Atlanta's Belt Line, albeit on a much smaller scale, incorporating both a greenway, known as Parley's Trail, and light rail system into the former railroad corridor.

In 2019, the line was double-tracked, providing a 15 minute service interval for the line. The success of the corridor should be a good case-study for other projects in the US as well. As Salt Lake County Mayor Wilson noted, “In the 1990’s there was incredible resistance to the idea of incorporating rail service into our public transit system. But there were leaders who stood up and the public at large really did favor this idea of investing in rail. Fast forward to today we’re seeing revitalized communities due to rail. UTA is helping us create an amazing web of transit throughout Salt Lake Valley.”

Here's hoping that there are more successful conversions of abandoned or out-of-service right of way into trails or light rail systems across the US! Thanks as always for reading!


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