Bonanza tunnel favored | ParkRecord.com

Bonanza tunnel favored

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Terry Frank admits it: he will still jaywalk across Bonanza Drive near the Rail Trail even if City Hall builds a pedestrian and bicyclist tunnel underneath the busy road.

The spot where officials intend to build the tunnel, he says, is just not convenient for him when he is at his Bonanza Drive home-furnishings store, No Place Like Home.

But Frank, who is the vice president of the NoMa Business Alliance, a group of merchants with much hinging on Bonanza Drive’s future, supports the work anyway. He says it is a "nightmare to cross" Bonanza Drive for pedestrians and bicyclists, and Frank wants it done.

"Everything we can do to improve the neighborhood is in our best benefit," Frank says.

Over several weeks, Park City officials have made critical decisions about Bonanza Drive, endorsing an ambitious plan for the road’s future and essentially giving City Hall staffers the go-ahead to pursue the work.

Most recently, the Park City Council, in a unanimous vote, agreed to a set of nine principles that will guide the street work. In doing so, the elected officials acknowledged Bonanza Drive is a critical road for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and emergency vehicles.

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The key part of the recent vote is a statement calling for the city to build the pedestrian-bicyclist tunnel, a sought-after project that was dangled in front of voters in 2007 as Parkites approved a $15 million bond to upgrade pedestrian and bicycling routes in the city. It is expected to cost about $1.1 million.

The City Councilors said they want a tunnel measuring 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It would run diagonally underneath Bonanza Drive near the intersection with Iron Horse Drive.

Officials have said building a tunnel at the location would create a link from Old Town to U.S. 40 that does not require someone to walk or bicycle on the side of a road.

"It’s just one piece of the puzzle. I think each piece will add up to a great one," Frank says.

A committee seated to assist the City Council with walking and bicycling upgrades previously recommended the tunnel be built. It is the first of what will be a series of committee recommendations throughout the city, with improvements to crossings on Kearns Boulevard and lesser-used streets also likely to receive funding.

Eric DeHaan, the Park City engineer and an official who is influential in City Hall decisions about pedestrian-bicycling improvements, says the government must now hire an engineering firm to design the tunnel and the City Council needs to approve the funds for the work. The city will select a firm as early as March, he says.

The city wants to build the tunnel in 2009, when Bonanza Drive will be reconstructed and a water line will be installed beneath the road.

Crossing Bonanza Drive for years has challenged pedestrians and bicyclists. It is one of Park City’s busiest streets, with traffic from Prospector, Park Meadows, the East Side of Summit County and Wasatch County often using the road to travel to Old Town and the city’s mountain resorts.

A crossing with flashing lights is near the Rail Trail, but many people consider it unsafe, and there are frequent near-misses between drivers and people crossing Bonanza Drive.

The tunnel would provide an alternative to the surface crossing now there.

"Traffic, the blinking lights that don’t work," says Mountain Trails Foundation leader Carol Potter as she recalls her first impression of the crossing. "There’s so many scary opportunities to get hurt."

Potter, who chairs the committee that recommended the City Council approve the tunnel, says it will be "big and bold and brilliant." She says people will use it in their regular routine. She says people who live near Bonanza Drive will enjoy the tunnel.

Eventually, Potter says, people parking in a planned satellite lot on the outskirts of the city will use the Rail Trail and the tunnel to get to Park City.

Potter says 50,000 people used the Rail Trail in 2007, with the busiest part of the trail being near Bonanza Drive, the trail’s western end.

"That, to me, is my big fix," Potter says as she compares the tunnel to other improvements the bond revenues could fund, adding, "They wanted something big. I think they wanted something they can see soon."

The redo’s details

In a recent vote, the City Council outlined what it wants done as part of the reconstruction of Bonanza Drive, a key artery in Park City.

The redo of the road is scheduled in 2009, and it will occur at the same time a water line is installed underneath Bonanza Drive.

Some of the features the City Councilors approved include:

Sidewalks measuring 6 feet wide on each side of Bonanza Drive.

Bicycle lanes measuring 5 feet wide on each side.

Raised medians at "strategic locations" along Bonanza Drive, which will stop people from making left turns at those places.

Designs for a stoplight at the Bonanza Drive-Iron Horse Drive intersection, with the project including the conduit needed to serve a stoplight if it is built someday.

An upgraded pedestrian signal at the Bonanza Drive crosswalk near the Rail Trail.

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