Park City told to ‘Hey !! wake up !!’ after terrible traffic jam
January 13, 2015
It was just after 6 p.m. on Dec. 29, a Monday, when Scott Gaynor sent an email message to Deer Valley Resort.
By that time the situation on the roads had already deteriorated into what quickly became a legendary traffic jam, perhaps the worst ever in Park City. Gaynor, a New York City resident, was vacationing with eight other people and opted to rely on buses rather than rent a car.
"It has been almost two hours at the silver lodge stop and we waited for a bus as long as we could. We are now waiting for a cab to pick us up and bring us back to Park City," Gaynor said in the message to Deer Valley. "I have not had a good experience with the bus pick from your resort."
The message was later forwarded to City Hall. The municipal government released the message and several others related to the traffic jam in response to a Park Record request under state open records laws.
The messages provide further insight to the Dec. 29 traffic jam, a backup that stretched through much of Park City and the entryways. Traffic has long been a common complaint in Park City, but, it seems, Parkites are especially displeased with what occurred.
In an interview, Gaynor said his party was headed between a lodge in Silver Lake Village and the Fresh Market grocery store on Park Avenue at the time of the traffic jam. A bus did not arrive and they took a taxi to the grocery store, he said. It took 1 1/2 hours for the taxi to reach him and another hour to get to the grocery store, according to Gaynor. The buses were reliable except that day, he said.
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"It was a little frustrating. We were quite cold," he said.
Nick Hudson, who lives in Old Town, was another person displeased enough with the traffic to send a message. His went to Park City Manager Diane Foster at 6:28 a.m. on Dec. 30, the morning after the traffic jam.
"Worst grid lock I have ever seen..Monday aftn Dec 29..horrible for any visitor, total stopped everywhere. Hey !! wake up !! The City does ok with Sundance..but I saw no special traffic management anywhere," Hudson said in his message. "If I were a visitor caught in that..I would go someplace else for sure next year. Never would I be here again on vacation to be caught in that mess for hours. C’mon have a plan, direct some traffic flow."
In an interview, Hudson said he was traveling from Snow Park Lodge in lower Deer Valley to his home.
"It was bumper to bumper, stopped, not moving," he said.
He went back inside Snow Park Lodge, drinking a few cups of hot chocolate as he attempted to wait out the traffic. Hudson went back outside 30 minutes later and saw that the traffic had not moved. He said decided to walk home instead of taking a bus.
"As I walked home, the cars still weren’t moving," he said.
Hudson, an 18-year Parkite, said the traffic jam was frustrating for people who live in the Park City area. The backup could also influence visitors who were stuck as they make vacation plans in the future, he said. Hudson suggested police officers directing drivers and transportation officials manually controlling stoplights could have assisted on the day of the traffic jam.
The city manager responded to the messages, offering an explanation of the day’s traffic jam. Her messages were similar to statements she made publicly afterward. In her response to Gaynor, Foster said there was "an unusual confluence of events, with very slippery roads, a traffic accident, and outload from the three ski resorts concurrent with normal commuter traffic."
"While all of the systems were working, the fact that most people were leaving an appropriate car-length between cars and that some drivers were running yellow lights and getting stuck in the intersection, our road infrastructure was simply overwhelmed," Foster said in the message. "I hope you were in town for the balance of the week and had what should have been a much better experience with our free bus system."
Foster also indicated Park City’s elected officials see transportation as one of the "critical priorities" in the city.
"We know that people do not want to come on vacation and experience traffic similar to what they have at home," she said.
Resort executives write
The top executives at Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort each wrote messages to the city manager about the traffic jam.
Bob Wheaton, who is the president and general manager at Deer Valley, said in his message "we did seem to experience the perfect traffic storm," describing holiday crowds of skiers, slick roads and people seeming to leave the resorts later than usual on the day.
Wheaton outlined steps Deer Valley takes to reduce traffic, including offering a bus service for employees, adjustable schedules for administrative staffers and partial reimbursement for staffers who ride to work on a public bus from Salt Lake City.
"As always we are open to working with the City to further discuss mitigating the traffic impacts during our busy holiday seasons," Wheaton said.
Bill Rock, the senior vice president and chief operating officer at Park City Mountain Resort, mentioned in his message PCMR has an employee parking lot.
"Thanks to you and your team for jumping on this. As I’m sure you know, Park City does operate an employee shuttle lot from Munchkin during these busy times. We are open to other options to help reduce traffic during exit. Thanks again for your attention to this," Rock said in the message.