Picturesque Wasatch Boulevard facing changes

Mar 19, 2018, 6:19 PM | Updated: Mar 20, 2018, 1:32 am

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Wasatch Boulevard from I-215 to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon has picked up a lot of traffic in recent years, according to numbers from the Utah Department of Transportation.

Traffic snarls at peak times, skier traffic can bring vehicles to a standstill, and the public is ready for improvements. As a result, the city of Cottonwood Heights is eager to hear from the people who drive the road, as they put together a Wasatch Boulevard Master Plan.

“We want to get in front of the change,” said Cottonwood Heights City Planner Mike Johnson. “We don’t want to react to it once it’s here, once it’s too late. We want to have a plan in place that the residents agree with, that the stakeholders agree with, that makes the corridor better.”

Planners gathered public input at an open house Monday night, and will continue to gather ideas online. Find a summary of the feedback from the first open house at www.cottonwoodheights.utah.gov.

The project has been directed by the City of Cottonwood Heights, in partnership with the Wasatch Front Regional Council, the Utah Department of Transportation, the Utah Transit Authority, Sandy City, City of Holladay, Salt Lake County, and other stakeholders. The coordinated planning effort will guide the future evolution of Wasatch Boulevard and the communities it serves. The plan focuses on the corridor between Interstate 215 and the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

According to 2016 statistics, 22,000 cars pass the gravel pit on an average day. Farther along the six mile corridor, 18,000 cars pass through the Big Cottonwood intersection on an average day.

“There’s not going to be less traffic. It’s only going to get worse,” said Johnson, referring to future traffic expectations.

Johnson said traffic on Wasatch has exceeded its capacity, and it’s time to plan for improvements.

“This road is so complex,” he said. “We’ve got people that live along it. We’ve got commuters who drive along it to get to and from work every day. We’ve got the ski traffic.” There are also cyclists, and a lot of other recreation traffic.

“Ski days are obviously the worst,” he said.

When there is fresh powder, traffic lines from the mouths of Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons back up for miles.

“You have to leave quite early in the mornings on powder days, or other days, like weekends,” said local skier, Teresa Nordquist. “You just know that you have to leave early because there’s so much traffic going on.”

Shawn Elliott grew up in a neighborhood along Wasatch Boulevard, and still lives there today. He loves the lifestyle, but not the traffic.

“This is how I get in, and how I get out,” he said, pointing to the road.  “Getting out in the morning, you have to get up early because if you don’t, you’re not getting out.”

Johnson says, the busy ski days are something they will take into account.

We can expect those, and build those into our planning scenarios, and look at ways to optimize that through things like transit, or better signage, or better parking options,” he said.

The public’s top priorities thus far, according to online surveys, are slower speeds, safer turns and protected bike lanes.  Some who have weighed in online think it’s time for a toll in the canyons.  But, everyone who has weighed in, so far, is worried about one key aspect of the future of the road.

“They want their quality of life to be preserved, and or enhanced,” said Johnson.

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Picturesque Wasatch Boulevard facing changes