Featured Image Courtesy: Salt Lake Tribune

The process of finalizing the solution to Little Cottonwood Canyons(Route 210) traffic is starting to heat up, as the Utah Department of Transportation has finalized the two choices for modernizing Route 210: A gondola or expanded bus service with multiple lanes.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that this process has taken three years of studying and community comment periods. This plan aims to reduce the expected ride time of eighty to eighty-five-minute if no action is taken by 2050.

The best option for mobility would be the enhanced bus service option. Wasatch Boulevard would be enlarged to include multiple lanes and an exclusive bus-only lane, and would also build a shoulder bus lane on Route 210 for peak periods. This cost is lower than the gondola and would be faster to get up the hill. If avalanche mitigation closed the road though, this would mean buses couldn’t enter during that period. Increased pavement usage and emissions could lead to a greater environmental impact though in regards to affecting wildlife habitat. Park and Go’s would be added at the current site of a giant Gravel Pit on Wasatch Boulevard. A Gravel Pit Park and Go would also be constructed with the gondola option, but it would have fewer parking spots due to the addition of La Caille Station.

The best option for reliability would be the gondola plan. This ride would likely be able to run while the road is undergoing avalanche mitigation, which is something that makes traffic reminiscent of a scene out of New York City. The base gondola station would be built right next to La Caille restaurant in Sandy and would have stops at Snowbird and Alta. The thirty-five-person Gondola cabins would arrive every two minutes and take thirty-six minutes to get up to Alta. The gondola lift line would run adjacent to Route 210 to limit the environmental impact. While there would be an initial environmental impact with the construction, it would have less impact than the expanded bus option following its opening. The drawbacks here are sometimes wind and other weather impacts could hinder the gondolas operations. Other opponents believe that the gondola would become useless during the summer where the demand is lower, the sixty-foot towers would be a visual eyesore, and that the two stations at Snowbird and Alta don’t address the popularity that the Canyon has with backcountry skiers.

A big factor in this process could be what the two resorts based in Little Cottonwood, Snowbird, and Alta, want to be the solution to this decades-long dilemma. Dave Fields, the President of Snowbird knows what he wants: a Gondola. Snowbird would let pass holders and employees ride the lift for free, and give away their conservation easements to help make the construction project actually happen.

“[Why add] a bunch more concrete and construction in the canyon or more lanes and snow sheds when we know the gondolas work and are much less impactful on the environment. They’re better for air quality. No matter how bad and how hard it’s snowing, a gondola can move up and down the canyon,” Fields said. “We’ve seen what happens when it snows a lot. Buses get stuck like everything else.”

In the meantime, Alta has introduced paid parking during peak periods and weekends, while Snowbird introduced parking reservations this past season. Public Comments can be made up until August 9th, and public hearings will be held on July 13 and July 20. You can read the proposal here.

What option would be better for Little Cottonwood?

Image Credits: Utah Department of Transportation

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