UDOT Wants Public Input On Final Alternatives For Little Cottonwood Canyon
SALT LAKE COUNTY — Next winter, on a beautiful powder day, traffic in Little Cottonwood Canyon will come to a crawl as skiers and snowboarders head to the resorts.
The Utah Department of Transportation started looking for long-term traffic solutions three years ago, and on Friday, released two preferred alternatives for the public to comment on.
Anybody who spends time up Little Cottonwood Canyon is eager for less congestion during peak times on State Route 210. The public can now help UDOT choose between a bus ride in a dedicated lane or a gondola ride soaring above the road.
“There is a ton of passion for this canyon,” said UDOT Project Manager Josh Van Jura.
That’s why Van Jura said he moved here 25 years ago. He thinks it’s also the reason they received more than 6,500 comments on the transportation alternatives they shared with the public last fall.
“Just the passion that everybody has for this very special place that is so close to the city,” he said.
UDOT narrowed the transportation alternatives on SR-210 from five to two on Friday and released the draft environmental impact statement, which contains the analysis of environmental impact.
“Air quality, water quality, noise, environmental justice, and roughly 20 other criteria,” said Van Jura.
The purpose and need for the project is to significantly improve the safety, mobility and reliability of transportation up to Snowbird and Alta.
“Two of those (transportation alternatives) really stood above the other three,” the project manager said.
The Enhanced Bus Service in Peak-Period Shoulder Lane, with a rider time of 36 minutes, excelled in the mobility category.
“There’s a bus that leaves every five minutes, so it’s frequent,” he said. “You don’t have that fear of missing the next one.”
It also has the fastest travel time when the roads are dry.
“In this scenario, there may be times when buses are actually passing passenger cars,” Van Jura said.
That may even encourage more travelers to get out of their cars and get on the bus, he pointed out.
Gondola B, with a base station at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon near La Caille, excelled in the reliability category because it wasn’t slowed by crashes and snow delays on the road. But Van Jura said it takes 20 minutes longer to get from your car to the resorts riding the gondola.
“Gondolas just don’t go as fast as cars do, but again, they provide that extra alignment reliability,” he said.
The gondola costs more to build than the enhanced bus service but less to operate, according to Van Jura, because it only runs during snow season. Over 30 years, they would cost taxpayers about the same.
“Those are our preferred alternatives, and we’re excited to get that out on the street and start our 45-day public comment period,” the project manager said.
That comment period started Friday and there will be two public hearings in July. UDOT plans to have a final decision sometime during the winter season.
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