We Salt Lakers look forward to electing Ralph Becker to be our next mayor and we should look forward because Ralph’s vision and experience will help make Salt Lake the great Americans city it can be.
But let’s also remember the things we have to be thankful for. One of those things is the vision and courage of Rocky. Sure, it hasn’t always been easy and I’ve been disappointed a few times as any advocate will be but on very hard issues, Rocky has made our city a better place.
Back in 1999 when we first elected Mayor Rocky there was no light rail in Utah. Over ten years of effort starting with corridor and study money set aside by great Utah Congressman Wayne Owens culminated in our first line opening just after the election. When Rocky was sworn in TRAX had just opened and skeptics had not been won over by its spectacular success.
The Olympics were coming in 2002 and there was a chance we could get money to build another light rail line along 400 South to the University Of Utah and its Olympic village quickly. Local support would have to be strong and unequivocal.
Unfortunately our city council voted to oppose 400 South light rail. Our city was looking at less mobility, more congestion, and a long hard fight to get transit money years later than we needed it. We wouldn’t likely even have the 400 South line today in 2007 if the Council’s decision held.
Rocky swept onto the scene even before he was inaugurated to persuade the Council. He shared his vision of vibrant and exciting walkable neighborhoods growing around transit. He organized special meetings. He negotiated understandings between UTA, UDOT, and the city.
The Council voted unanimously to reverse itself and support our TRAX line at its last meeting of the year. The Wasatch Front Regional Council, Federal Transit Administration, and Clinton Administration followed and 400 South TRAX was built on an accelerated schedule in time for the Olympics.
Today the 400 South TRAX line is exceeding ridership projections and helped persuade the people of Utah to fund four new extensions with a billion dollar bond last November.