Salt Lake City to temporarily close Rio Grande Street to vehicle traffic starting Friday

SALT LAKE CITY -- A section of Salt Lake City's Rio Grande Street in the area of the Road Home Shelter and Catholic Community Services will shut down to vehicle traffic starting Friday.

The announcement came Thursday afternoon that this will be temporary, pending public comment and a city council decision.

Earlier in the week, two key players could not agree on the timeline, among other things. Mayor Jackie Biskupski and House Speaker Greg Hughes were not exactly on the same page with the road closure until Thursday afternoon, when they came together for a press conference to state a decision had been made.

“We owe it to those who are most vulnerable," Hughes said. "We owe it to public safety to have an area that truly is safe. So when you have someone that may have resisted going in that area for fear, that we’ve taken that fear away."

The street will be temporarily shut down to vehicles. Biskupski said, pending public comments, the barriers that will go up could become permanent for the foreseeable future.

“It’s very important that the public have the opportunity to weigh in if we’re going to close this street for a couple of years,” Biskupski said, adding a public survey was launched Thursday to see how the community feels about creating a safe space in the area.

Hughes said, ideally, they would like to put a perimeter around the Road Home, Catholic Community Services, and the street between them. Access would be permitted with a "services" card, similar to the one CCS already uses. In addition, law enforcement would continue to be heavily utilized.

“We’re contemplating utilizing our dogs, our law enforcement dogs, for drug sniffing as people are coming, going through this area. And also utilizing some of our law enforcement to check for weapons so that we really can make sure this space remains safe," Biskupski said.

Biskupski and Hughes said they think these things combined, plus more plans still in the works, would not only slow down drug traffic, but stop it in its tracks.

“I do think it’s going to thwart the drug dealers, the drug traffickers, to see that road is not the McDonald’s drive-thru of the drug dealers," Hughes said.

Wednesday, September 6 is a community forum at the Gateway. Over the next couple of weeks, the city is working on a public benefits analysis of the road closure.

The topic is on city council's agenda for September 12. A public hearing and potential vote is scheduled for September 19.