Mountain Transportation Plan study drives forward
Ryan Summerlin November 6, 2012
The study for a regional transportation plan that aims to protect watershed, provide connectivity among ski resorts and ease traffic congestion is moving forward.
Summit County participated in a panel of local officials on Friday, Nov. 2, to discuss the Mountain Transportation Plan and its potential implementation in the Wasatch Front and Back.
Panel participants included Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, Park City Mayor Dana Williams and Utah Transportation Authority General Manager Mike Allegra.
"The meeting was to kick off the idea of doing regional planning for the central Wasatch Mountains," said Summit County Councilman Chris Robinson, who is the county’s liaison to the committee. "It wasn’t to discuss any particular proposal, but was to take input from stakeholders on how this planning could take place."
During the discussion, Robinson asked what Summit County officials like about the Mountain Transportation Plan.
"It’s community based, transparent and involves all the stakeholders," he said. "And we believe connecting all the resorts is a good thing, but we only have one chance to get it right."
Rather than officials just "shooting from the hip," in future planning, the Mountain Transportation plan studies transportation, water, air quality and environmental issues in one package, he said.
Robinson said he voiced concerns about the plan at the meeting, however, such as how long the planning will take, how it will be governed and how it will be paid for.
"We need an actionable plan that we can follow," Robinson said.
Councilmember Sally Elliott said everybody who spoke at the meeting was very positive about connecting all the resorts at the same time, rather than just the Canyons and Solitude Mountain Resorts, as proposed by the SkiLink plan.
"Everybody agreed the economic benefits would be large, and while Summit County has very different needs, we truly want to be a part of it," Elliott said.
The plan’s environmental benefits are also central to the plan, she said.
"If all the resorts were linked, people wouldn’t have to spend so much time driving up and down the canyons," she said. "That’s a serious concern for Salt Lake County, because the canyons are so narrow and steep, the traffic is so huge and Little Cottonwood Canyon in particular is very avalanche prone."
Elliott pointed out that while some have voiced concerns in the past about the impacts of drawing more people into the mountains, that either way Summit County will have more people settling the valley and more tourists coming in.
"We really have to plan for more people because it’s a reality," Elliott said.
The next step is to determine the environmental impacts of the Mountain Transportation Plan through the National Environmental Policy Act.
"I think they are looking at three years to start getting things in the ground," Elliott said.