Park City revs up talks after awful holiday traffic jam
January 2, 2015
Diane Foster was one of the motorists stuck in an extraordinary traffic jam in Park City on Monday.
Foster, the Park City manager, was outbound on Kearns Boulevard as traffic crawled through the city with backups that some say might have been the worst in the city’s history.
Foster said in an interview City Hall staffers huddled the next day to discuss the traffic situation. The transportation planner, the city engineer, transit officials, the Park City Police Department and public affairs were represented at the meeting.
She said officials prior to the Monday traffic jam took steps to lessen the chances of that sort of scenario. She said there was coordination with state transportation officials regarding stoplights, digital message boards had been posted, including one directing traffic to S.R. 248, and there were discussions with Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort beforehand.
The steps taken prior to Monday, though, were not successful as terrible traffic jams were seen as skiers and snowboarders were leaving the resorts in the afternoon. It was an "unusual confluence of weather, really high resort traffic," Foster said, calling Monday "an unusual day."
The crowds were expected to be large that day with people vacationing in Park City for the holidays and people drawn to the mountain resorts by the recent snows. Poor weather on Monday exacerbated the situation. Foster, meanwhile, said skiers left the mountain resorts later than on a typical day.
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"The skier traffic and the commuter traffic outloaded at the same time," Foster said, adding, "It wasn’t any one thing. It was a combination."
Foster said City Hall understood the traffic situation was deteriorating. Police officers were sent to watch important intersections and a staffer was positioned at the Park Avenue crosswalk outside Holiday Village to monitor the traffic as well as the crosswalk. The public affairs director went onto the radio during the afternoon commute to talk about the issues.
On the day afterward, City Hall’s transportation planner spoke to the Utah Department of Transportation about the timing of stoplights, the pedestrian signal along Kearns Boulevard at Comstock Drive and the possibility of manually changing the light at stoplights. Each of the stoplights inside Park City is on a state-controlled road.
Foster said the Police Department does not intend to position officers in intersections to direct traffic. It is dangerous for the officers and the directions would not be synchronized with a system that manages stoplights between Park City and Kimball Junction, she said. That system was programmed to handle increased traffic during the holidays, including on Monday, Foster said.
Foster said another meeting is scheduled with a City Hall team on Wednesday to discuss the situation. She said Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council are scheduled to discuss transportation in general terms at a meeting on Thursday. The discussion was planned prior to the traffic jam. Foster said she anticipates the Monday traffic will be a topic during the Thursday meeting. Park City’s elected officials have deemed transportation one of the issues that City Hall will stress.
The traffic on Monday will likely become lore in Park City. Vehicles crawled through Park City during the afternoon and into the evening. There are stories of it taking more than an hour to make trips that normally would take a few minutes.