A stroll through traffic
September 30, 2008
Crossing Park Avenue outside the Holiday Village Albertsons, in theory, should be simple.
As Mark Fenton put it recently, a pedestrian or bicyclist just needs to press a button to activate a signal to warn drivers someone is in the crosswalk.
Fenton, an expert in making communities easier to navigate for pedestrians, bicyclists and others not driving cars, walked a group of Park City leaders and others across the busy street, pointing out traffic patterns on Park Avenue.
"Hit it, the lights start blinking," Fenton told the crowd during a late-September visit to Park City.
He talked about what he called the "platooning" of traffic on the stretch of Park Avenue. The cars passed in groups, or platoons, as a result of nearby stoplights. The cars gathered at red lights, and then they essentially drove together to the crosswalk as a result of the stoplight.
The Albertsons crossing, a popular place for people to get across Park Avenue, has long been seen as a trouble spot between pedestrians and drivers. A pedestrian signal is situated there, but drivers are regularly seen ignoring the blinking lights and driving through as people are trying to cross.
Fenton, who has assisted City Hall previously with pedestrian and bicyclist issues, led the recent group, about 40 people, on a route from Park City Mountain Resort to the Olympic Welcome Plaza.
The route follows a busy stretch of Park Avenue, where traffic is especially bad during the ski season, and it includes the critical Deer Valley Drive-Park Avenue-Empire Avenue intersection. The intersection handles many of the skiers leaving PCMR and Deer Valley during afternoons in the ski season. Backups regularly occur.
Fenton suggested the traffic could be lessened if a park-and-ride lot is opened serving PCMR and Deer Valley Resort. Park City officials are readying a lot where people will park and then be shuttled into Park City.
"Places have used it, and resort communities have used it," he said about park-and-ride lots.
Fenton visited as Park City is preparing for an ambitious set of citywide upgrades for pedestrians and bicyclists, authorized by voters who approved a bond measure to pay for the work. Some of the improvements are planned for the route the Fenton group followed.
Heinrich Deters, a City Hall staffer who is assisting with the planning, said an eight-foot-wide pathway will be installed on the west side of Park Avenue between Deer Valley Drive and Kearns Boulevard. It will be built in as soon as three years, he said.
Deters said a City Hall committee recommended $25,000 be put into upgrades at the crossing. The work is scheduled in 2009, but Deters said details have not been decided.
The Fenton-led walk was part of a conference that has attendees conduct what is known as a ‘walkable audit’ of a community, a research project meant to figure out the problem locations. About 40 people attended the conference.
Carol Potter, who helms the Mountain Trails Foundation and is a key figure in the local pedestrian talks, said after walking the route the Deer Valley Drive-Park Avenue-Empire Avenue intersection was difficult to navigate.
She said Fenton and others afterward spoke about removing places for drivers to turn in and out of parking lots close to the intersection as a way to make the location safer. They also broached the idea of building a pedestrian-bicyclist tunnel there, she said.
"It’s kind of one of those all-hands-on-deck corners for me," Potter said.