Big trucks, rattled nerves: Marmalade residents at odds with late night truck traffic
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — What if every 60 seconds, a construction vehicle rumbled through your neighborhood during the day and at all hours of the night?
The problem has plagued residents in Salt Lake City’s Marmalade neighborhood for at least the last 18 months. After they say their complaints have fallen on deaf ears with the Salt Lake City government, they reached out to KSL Investigators.
‘I can’t sleep at night’
Dan Love has lived in the Marmalade District neighborhood near 600 North and 300 West for more than a decade. He loves the people and location, but not the construction traffic.
“It’s not just noise,” said Love, “it’s a feeling. You can feel it. I can’t sleep at night because it’s 24-hour gravel operations.”
A handful of gravel companies and other industrial entities have been doing business along Beck Street for decades. But Love told us their cohabitation with Marmalade residents changed in the last couple of years.
“We’re at 24/7, seven days a week,” said Love. Before then, he claimed truck traffic was not occurring during the overnight hours. At times, Love said he periodically hears engine brakes engaged.
Looking at the video Love said he shot around 3 a.m. in June, you can see truck after truck driving down 300 West, after dark, to access Interstate 15 at the 600 North onramp.
Love said it’s not just the noise bothering the neighborhood. “You’ll see the dust, the dirt, the debris that comes out of (the trucks),” he said.
KSL Investigators sat along 300 West over several days and counted trucks rumbling down the street on average every 55 seconds.
Rules of the road
Beck Street and 300 West are also known as U.S. Highway 89. Heavy truck traffic has been allowed on this route for decades. While it is a state road, Salt Lake City has some jurisdiction over its traffic enforcement.
“It’s a public roadway,” said Jon Larsen, director of the city’s Transportation Division. “As long as you meet the standards to operate on the public right-of-way, you can operate on 300 West.”
KSL Investigators looked into these standards and found a couple of things: There is no start time or curfew on the books for truck operation.
“It’s the same as anyone else,” Larsen said. “You’re allowed to drive on the street anytime that it’s open, and the streets are open all day.” This means traffic at 3 a.m. is perfectly legal.
Utah law demands loads must be covered, unless “the highest point of the load does not extend above the top of any exterior wall.”
We spent days and nights watching trucks drive up and down 300 West, but did not see any violations in covered loads.
While the trucks are loud, our decibel meter did not detect noise above the 88-decibel threshold deemed a noise violation by the Salt Lake County Health Department. Air brakes are illegal on this route within city limits unless the driver must use them in an emergency.
Building boom means increased traffic
Salt Lake City’s downtown is a city on the rise — literally — as evidenced by the multiple cranes and construction sites across the skyline.
The 2020 State of Downtown Salt Lake City report outlined at least 13 multi-story construction projects currently being built or planned. More than 3,000 residential units will be added to the downtown neighborhoods.
We reached out to the construction businesses along Beck Street for comment.
According to Staker Parson Materials & Construction, they currently operate trucks around the clock. In a statement, their spokesperson told KSL, “We are responding to the needs of our customers and the significant increase of construction activity in downtown Salt Lake City. Our traffic has increased over the last two years due to greater customer demands of construction services and aggregate products.”
Marathon Petroleum told us they also operate around the clock, but their “traffic patterns have not changed over the past two years” and their “trucks don’t typically access our facility via 300 West.”
Emails to Utah Sand and Gravel, and Lakeview Rock Products, were not returned.
After our investigation, Love said the truck traffic and overnight noise have eased somewhat, with most traffic starting up in the early hours around 5 a.m. He said, “middle of the night” traffic now occurs “only two or three nights a week,” but said the early morning traffic is still “an eye-opener.”
Love said he understands this is an area of cohabitation for industry and residents. “There’s not an evil in it,” he said, “it’s just, how do you get people to engage in common space to solve common sense problems?”
Love has spent the last couple of years engaged with city leaders, some of which he said stood and watched the traffic from his front lawn.
Larsen admitted there’s an issue but said there’s no quick solution to the problem. He doesn’t expect the building boom to slow anytime soon.
Long-term solutions could include upgrading the Warm Springs interchange, near the gravel pits, so trucks can access I-15 without going through the residential area. That solution would take five to 10 years to study, as well as significant funding and build time.
Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at firstname.lastname@example.org or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.
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