Group opposed to Little Cottonwood gondola project files lawsuit

Dec 4, 2023, 8:51 PM | Updated: Dec 5, 2023, 12:45 pm

A Gondola Works sign that has graffiti on it in is pictured near Little Cottonwood Canyon on Wednes...

A Gondola Works sign that has graffiti on it in is pictured near Little Cottonwood Canyon on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A group opposing the Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola project has filed a lawsuit, citing environmental concerns.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in district court by organizations such as Friends of Alta and International Outdoor Recreation Asset Alliance to stop the Utah Department of Transportation project.

“We hope the lawsuit will induce a pause while additional analysis is performed, providing legislators time to review the over $1 billion cost of the gondola project,” said Craig Heimark, a spokesman for the plaintiffs.

Utahns react to gondola decision for Little Cottonwood Canyon transit solution

The plaintiffs claim Little Cottonwood Canyon would be “irreparably damaged by a hasty decision focused only on traffic congestion rather than on protecting the interests of all Utah citizens and canyon users.”

With the lawsuit, Heimark said they expect it will create time for Utah lawmakers to other cheaper solutions.

The plaintiffs suggest several other options. Those solutions include:

  • Returning public bus service to at least the levels of 2019.
  • Testing the effectiveness of electric bus technology and service to satisfy
  • Making advance reserved parking required.
  • Ensuring the mandatory traction laws for LCC are enforced from November 1 to May 1.
  • Testing selected lane closures for private vehicles during peak traffic hours; to reduce the transit time of buses and micro-transit vehicles;
  • Promote carpooling by installing tolling infrastructure.
  • Compare the cost and effectiveness of modern Remote Control Avalanche
    equipment to the proposed installation of snow sheds.

The plaintiffs will be holding a news conference on Tuesday at 3 p.m. to discuss this lawsuit further.

On Tuesday, UDOT issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

“We are currently in the process of reviewing the challenge to the Little Cottonwood Canyon EIS Record of Decision and cannot comment on specifics of the litigation.

“In coordination with our agency partners, we have been working toward implementation of Phase 1 in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. Phase 1 includes improved & increased bus service along with a mobility hub, resort bus stops and tolling. Phases 2 and 3 are currently unfunded.

“Our goal is to have Phase 1 bus service operational by the 25/26 ski season but implementation may be delayed due to the legal challenge.

“At this time, we do not know the full impact the legal challenge will have on our implementation of improvements such as bus service and tolling. We will continue to assess potential schedule impacts to Phase 1 as we work through the legal process.”

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Group opposed to Little Cottonwood gondola project files lawsuit