UDOT Opts To Install World's Longest Gondola To Address Little Cottonwood Canyon Traffic

UDOT Opts To Install World's Longest Gondola To Address Little Cottonwood Canyon Traffic

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UDOT Opts To Install World's Longest Gondola To Address Little Cottonwood Canyon Traffic

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“These improvements will improve air quality, protect the watershed, and increase the quality of life for residents and canyon users by reducing traffic congestion as private vehicles shift to transit.”

Massive news out of Utah as The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has elected to install a gondola to address traffic issues in Little Cottonwood Canyon. KSL reports the decision was made after exhaustive studies of different options and input from the general public, which was pretty evenly divided between the gondola and enhanced bus service.

In the end, the gondola won out for a variety of reasons including the ability to bypass traffic (7,000 cars on busy days) and continue to shuttle people despite snowy conditions that often compound traffic issues.

“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.” –UDOT Spokesperson John Gleason

The proposed gondola will skiers and snowboarders from the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon all the way to Snowbird and Alta, at the rate of 1,000 people an hour. Each cabin will hold 35 people with cabins departing every two minutes. UDOT will also build a base station with 2,500 parking spaces near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The total capital cost of the gondola is $550 million. At around 8 miles long, it will be the longest gondola in the world.

The final environmental impact statement is the next phase of the project, it is available for review on the project website. There is a 45-day public review and comment period that runs through Oct. 17. We will be sure to update this story as new information becomes available. Let us know what you think.

UDOT Little Cottonwood Canyon Environmental Impact Statement (LCC EIS):

Thank you to everyone who continues to participate in the Little Cottonwood EIS process! Utah DOT has released the Final EIS and 14,000+ public comments received during the Draft EIS comment periods, and identified Gondola B, with proposed phasing, as the preferred alternative to improve transportation in the canyon. This alternative best meets the project purpose and provides the highest travel reliability for the public. Following a 45-day comment period for the Final EIS, UDOT will formally select an alternative for implementation in a separate Record of Decision (ROD) this winter.
To identify the preferred alternative, UDOT considered an alternative’s ability to substantially improve transportation-related safety, reliability, and mobility for all users on S.R. 210 from Fort Union Boulevard through the Town of Alta. UDOT also considered an alternative’s environmental impacts, which includes impacts to water quality, air quality, and visual and noise impacts, among others.
Additionally, public input from the Draft EIS comment period informed the decision-making process and reflects the following themes:
  • Support for gondola and bus alternatives
  • Support for tolling
  • Support for phased implementation
  • Consideration of all canyon users, not just resort visitors
  • Keep existing recreation opportunities intact (climbing boulders)
  • Maintain existing visual experience
Gondola B would construct a base station with 2,500 parking spaces near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Each gondola cabin would hold up to 35 people, and travelers could expect a cabin to arrive every two minutes. The gondola can operate independently of S.R. 210, avoiding delays related to adverse weather, crashes, slide offs and slow moving traffic. This alternative has the highest visual impacts but low impacts to the watershed, wildlife movement, and climbing boulders.
The total capital cost of the Gondola B Alternative is $550 million. This includes the cost of tolling infrastructure, transit parking, adding snow sheds, addressing trailhead parking and widening Wasatch Boulevard, which are common to all alternatives. Winter operations and maintenance will cost $4 million per year, and if summer service was implemented, the annual operations and maintenance would increase by another $3 million. While the initial construction cost is the third highest of the alternatives, the overall 30-year life cycle cost is the lowest.
Proposed Phased Implementation of Gondola Alternative B
Recognizing that safety, mobility and reliability are issues on S.R. 210 today, and that it may take years to secure federal, state and/or private funding for full implementation of Gondola B, UDOT is proposing a phased implementation plan starting with components of the Enhanced Bus Service.
UDOT does not have funding to implement the proposed preferred alternative. The phased implementation plan will alleviate mobility, reliability and safety concerns that exist today while addressing the long-term transportation need in the canyon.
The proposed phasing would include increased and improved bus service as described in the Enhanced Bus Service Alternative (with no canyon roadway widening), tolling or restrictions on single occupancy vehicles, and the construction of mobility hubs. UDOT would also proceed with widening and other improvements to Wasatch Boulevard, constructing snow sheds, and implementing trailhead and roadside parking improvements, as funding allows.
These improvements will improve air quality, protect the watershed, and increase the quality of life for residents and canyon users by reducing traffic congestion as private vehicles shift to transit.
45-Day Public Review & Comment Period
A 45-day public review and comment period of the Final EIS will be open through October 17. UDOT is accepting comments that relate to the identified preferred alternative, new and updated information from the Draft EIS to the Final EIS, the assessment of the environmental impacts of the preferred primary and sub-alternatives, the proposed phasing plan, and the mitigation of potential impacts. The public may submit comments through the project website, email, written letters, voicemail and text message.
Once the public comment period has ended, UDOT will consider all comments received on the Final EIS when deciding which alternative and sub-alternatives are selected in the Record of Decision (ROD). The ROD, as the next and final step in the EIS process, will identify the final alternative and is anticipated to be issued in the winter of 2022/2023. Implementation of the selected alternative may only occur after the ROD is issued and when federal, state and/or private funding is identified.
Please watch the videos for more detailed information and share this post, we’d like all canyon users to be informed of this project milestone and know how to submit comments.

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