Part of Rio Grande Street in SLC now closed to through traffic

SALT LAKE CITY -- Motorists will no longer be able to drive past The Road Home Shelter and Catholic Community Services on Rio Grande Street.

Concrete barriers and "road closed" signs now block the entrance from 200 South to about 250 South.

The shutdown is part of "Operation Rio Grande," an effort by Utah, Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City to improve safety and services for the homeless people who frequent the area.

“It’s to stop the drive-by drug dealing,” said Jonathan Hardy, Utah Housing and Community Development Director. “But it’s really the first step in creating a safe zone down in this area.”

The “safe zone” on the street will soon have an entry, and no one will be able to walk through the street unless they have an ID card that shows the person has a right to enter and receive services.

“We’ll know who is accessing the area,” Hardy said. “Where we can help engage people to get services that will help them exit homelessness.”

The street closure is getting mixed reactions from some of the people who regularly come to the Rio Grande area.

“It’s a public road; everybody should have access to it,” David Gregg said.

“I’m grateful for them shutting it down,” Sharon Thompson said. “If they don’t, it’s going to go back. It’s a lot safer, a lot cleaner.”

The street closure may be temporary. A public meeting will be held at the old Anthropology store at the Gateway Mall at 6 p.m. on September 6.

The Salt Lake City Council will later vote on whether to keep the street closed. The public can get more information about the “safe zone” and take part in a survey about it by clicking here.