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UDOT Proposes Three Options To Ease Little Cottonwood Canyon Traffic

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah – Imagine floating above the snarled traffic on a snow day as you’re heading up Little Cottonwood Canyon in a gondola.

What would be the longest gondola in the world is among three alternatives proposed by the Utah Department of Transportation to ease skier traffic in the winter in the popular canyon.

UDOT officials were eager for public input on the Little Cottonwood Canyon Environmental Impact Statement.

One of the busiest ski days a dozen years ago is now an average winter day up in Little Cottonwood Canyon. As many as 7,000 cars head up this canyon on a busy ski day. The gondola, along with the other two options, which involve improved bus services, would cut traffic by 30%.

“More and more people are coming to the canyons. They’re coming to enjoy the ski resorts, and we want to make that possible,” said UDOT spokesman John Gleason.

The department has conducted many studies and generated plenty of ideas over the years to improve transportation safety, reliability and mobility in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

UDOT believes each of these alternatives world significantly cut travel time and improve the experience for everyone.

“This is what Utah is famous for: the greatest snow on earth. We want to give people the opportunity to get up here and enjoy it, not be stuck in congestion,” said Gleason.

The first alternative is an enhanced bus service that would run 24 UTA buses as frequently as every five minutes, driving directly to each of the resorts.

The second idea is enhanced bus service in a dedicated shoulder lane.

“In the summer we could use it for pedestrians and for bicyclists,” Gleason said.

The most ambitious idea is a 35-person gondola that would take skiers and snowboarders from the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon all the way to Snowbird and Alta, carrying 1,000 people an hour. It would be the longest gondola in the world: around eight miles long.

“It’s exciting. It’s daunting,” said Gleason. “A lot of people will have an opinion about it, and that’s what this whole process is about.”

If either of the busing alternatives is selected, UDOT would build several snow sheds to protect the road and the people driving on it.

“A snow shed is a concrete structure that is built over the road,” Gleason said. “It functions as a garage or a roof over the road so that if an avalanche happens the cars can pass underneath. ”

Mobility hubs, which are essentially large parking lots, would be built on Wasatch Boulevard to enable people to park and access each of those alternatives. 

UDOT also plans to widen and improve Wasatch Boulevard, improve trailhead parking and eliminate some roadside parking.

“We want people to know that we’re listening, and we want their voices to be heard,” said Gleason.

UDOT will have all of the details online on Monday here and the public will have an opportunity to comment until July 10.

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