The Utah Department of Transportation is currently receiving input and comments on proposed transportation solutions
Dear Alta Skier,
This great snow year has brought great skiing, put smiles on many faces and created memories that will last until next winter. The snow has also brought an increase in skiers to Little Cottonwood Canyon which has magnified parking and transportation woes in the canyon. Our employees, like many of you, continue to grow increasingly frustrated with the traffic congestion. From our perspective, we have had more traffic congestion and delays in the canyon this season than in the past 30 years and they have magnified in intensity.
Why all this talk about traffic this time of year as the ski season winds down? The Utah Department of Transportation is currently receiving input and comments on proposed transportation solutions. We value your perspective and insight and encourage your comments and input.
Given the expected growth of the population in the Salt Lake Valley, the growing popularity of multi-resort pass products and the continual growth of tourism in Utah, I believe that we are at a tipping point and need to make significant improvements.
Other than Mother Nature, here are some of the primary contributors to traffic congestion and delays in Little Cottonwood Canyon:
- Vehicles in the canyon not properly equipped (i.e. 2 wheel drives and the lack of snowtires), as well as, checking vehicles for the proper tires or 4 wheel drive at the mouth of the canyon.
- Insufficient parking at the ski areas and trailheads for current demand resulting in roadside parking which creates safety and congestion issues as vehicles U-turn on the highway.
- More vehicles trying to get up or go down at the same time than the capacity of the road.
- Road closures for avalanche control work and delays in getting the road open (primarily early mornings with some midday closures).
- At times, lack of snow removal equipment (plows) in the canyon.
- A bus system that is inconvenient, near capacity, takes too long and is generally not a pleasant experience.
- Too many single-occupancy vehicles in the canyon.
While we can’t control Mother Nature, all of the contributors to traffic congestion listed above can be addressed--given time and money. My concern is that we tackle them in the right order.
Suggestions for reducing traffic congestion in the canyon in the short term are prioritized as follows:
- Continue to encourage carpooling. To incentive carpooling, Alta dedicated 25% of the Wildcat parking lot to carpool parking this season.
- Require all vehicles under a certain weight (passenger cars and pickups) to be 4X4’s with snow tires from November 1 to April 30. Increase the fine for violators, including car rental companies. Currently, 4x4 and chains are only required when the road is snow-packed. Too often the road is dry or wet in the morning but snow-packed and very slippery later in the day.
- Use the shoulder or add a third lane at least to gate B to stack vehicles when the road is delayed for avalanche control work. This would allow the traffic lanes to stay open for up and downhill traffic and allows traffic flow in the neighborhoods near the mouth of the canyon. Shoulders on the main arteries coming to canyon could also be used to stack vehicles on mornings when the canyon is delayed to keep traffic flowing in those neighborhoods.
- Create an additional downhill lane through Snowbird with a barrier that prevents Snowbird roadside parking from U turning into downhill Alta traffic and Snowbird exits from merging with Alta traffic until below Entry 1. On heavy traffic days, the commute from Alta is often one hour longer than from Snowbird and most of Snowbird’s lots are empty before Alta’s traffic moves.
- Add another snowplow to the fleet for snow removal in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Particularly on snowy days, another plow would enable the road to stay in better shape and keep the traffic moving.
- Add a third lane in the canyon for Public transportation and possibly HOV traffic. Use the lane for uphill traffic only from midnight to noon and for downhill traffic only from noon till midnight. A recent reference by UDOT that capacity improvements to the single lane road are in Phase 3 and may not be funded until the 2041-2050 timeframe is alarming. This seems out of touch with the fact the current road does not have the capacity to effectively accommodate current peak demand and that demand is expected to significantly increase before 2041.
- Improve bus service, which is currently near capacity on busy days, and provide more parking and ride lots near the mouth of the canyon.
- Install avalanche sheds in slide paths or move the road outside of slide paths. The UDOT avalanche crew has done a great job over the years reducing the avalanche hazard in the canyon through the use of artillery and Remote Avalanche Control (RAC) systems. There have been significant expenditures for RAC systems and remote monitoring that have improved their results and reduced the time to do avalanche mitigation work. If snow sheds will significantly reduce or eliminate the road delay time on mornings avalanche mitigation work is done this solution should be given a higher priority.
The Utah Department of Transportation is in the process of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement focusing on immediate needs relating to transportation in Little Cottonwood Canyon. They are currently accepting comments on their proposed solutions. We invite you to review and comment on their proposed solutions and offer solutions you may have as we have done.
You may do so at the following link; Click this link for more information on the UDOT EIS project website.
We support evaluating and moving forward long term solutions such a train, gondolas, transit centers, and other rapid transit solutions to accommodate projected growth and reduce vehicles in the canyon.
Let’s fix the transportation issues so we can all spend more time skiing rather than commuting.
Thank you for your time and input.