The opportunity is closing for members of the Utah public to give feedback on Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola project. The Utah Department of Public Transportation’s (UDOT) public comment period closes on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022, as opposition to the gondola finds a foothold in Salt Lake County.
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson has been a vocal opponent of the UDOT plan, and just in the past week, the Salt Lake County Council passed a joint resolution recommending that the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) eliminate the gondola as a potential option to alleviate Little Cottonwood Canyon’s traffic woes.
Any Utah skier knows that the traffic congestion on S.R. 210 up to Alta and Snowbird is a nightmare during the ski season. Possible traffic mitigation projects included widening the highway, bussing and versions of the gondola, but none of them satisfied all or even most concerned parties. Ultimately, UDOT chose the $550 million gondola proposal over the bus-based solutions.
The proposed Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola would carry passengers from a station at La Caille at the mouth of the canyon to stations located at the base areas of Alta and Snowbird. The gondola would run every two minutes, each cabin is set to carry 35 passengers and the ride will take 30-40 minutes, depending on which ski resort is their destination. To support the gondola, UDOT would construct a 2,500-car parking lot at the base of the canyon for people riding the gondola to park as well as numerous towers along the entire length of the canyon. The impact of that construction, especially the towers is one of the points of contention for the project. (See more on the UDOT gondola plan.)
“Instead of constructing 23 sky-scraper-sized gondola towers that will devastate the majestic views of the canyon, UDOT should pursue common-sense solutions that invest in more practical, adaptable and less invasive transportation strategies,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Wilson in a statement, following the council’s resolution to oppose it.
The mayor also objects to the initial construction cost of $550 million (funded by taxpayers) for the gondola, which would have just two stops, each at private ski resorts, who stand the most to gain. Wilson also contends that the Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola would remove only 30% of vehicle traffic from the canyon road.
The Mayor also offered some alternatives to the gondola, saying, “These solutions on their own have the potential to solve the traffic problem without destroying our canyon. This common-sense approach will demonstrate that the costly and unsightly gondola is not right for our canyons.” The alternatives she would support include: electric, high-quality buses with mobility hubs; tolling; parking management strategies such as ski parking reservations and enhanced smartphone app technology; multi-passenger vehicle incentives such as micro-transit, carpooling, and rideshare programs; and traction device requirements with expanded inspection hours and enforcement.
UDOT is accepting feedback from the public on its Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola plan through their website littlecottonwoodeis.udot.utah.gov until Oct. 17, 2022.
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