Bonanza: just circle it |

Bonanza: just circle it

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

In a vote that held little drama, North of Main business leaders this week agreed they want to cooperate with City Hall as the local government considers options for Bonanza Drive, the clogged street that is the key thoroughfare in the NoMa district.

In a meeting on Wednesday, Rodman Jordan, the leader of the district, and his architect, Craig Elliott, spoke to members of the NoMa Business Alliance about wide-ranging ideas to fight traffic along the Bonanza Drive corridor.

The meeting followed less than a week after the Park City Council agreed to spend $73,000 to have a consultant craft a 20-year plan for the road. It was also held during a week when traffic on Bonanza Drive appeared to be the worst since the end of the ski season. As during the winter, the road backed up near the Kearns Boulevard intersection, likely caused by the big crowds attending the Triple Crown softball tournament.

NoMa leaders plan to approach the City Council to ask that they be engaged as the talks unfold, Jordan said after the meeting. It is unclear when he plans to speak to the elected officials, however.

Meanwhile, Jordan and Elliott outlined an idea to build roundabouts on Bonanza Drive, long an option Jordan has pushed. Extensive research would be required before roundabouts could be built, and City Hall would have to figure out a way to pay for them.

"Bonanza Drive, today, is trying to be two things, but it can only be one," Elliott told the people at the meeting, describing that drivers use it as a route between Kearns Boulevard and Old Town and calling the corridor a burgeoning shopping and dining district.

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Under the roundabout idea, the traffic circles might be built at Bonanza Drive’s intersections with Iron Horse Drive, Munchkin Drive and Prospector Avenue, a stretch of the street that is notoriously busy.

Jordan says roundabouts would eliminate left-hand turns at the intersections, forcing drivers to turn right and use a roundabout to head toward Old Town. They would better serve pedestrians, and roundabouts look more appealing than typical intersections, he says.

If roundabouts are built, they would be the most prominent traffic circles installed in Park City since the Old Town roundabout was constructed at the Deer Valley Drive-Marsac Avenue intersection just before the 2002 Winter Olympics. Before that roundabout was built, many drivers complained about what they considered an awkward intersection.

"I think the fear of roundabouts is gone because we have one very successful one," Jordan says, describing them as "absolutely" the way to solve traffic on Bonanza Drive and predicting NoMa roundabouts would be similar in size to the one in Old Town.

Other ideas the NoMa leaders heard included building a tunnel at the Iron Horse Drive intersection, near the Rail Trail, and putting a median on Bonanza Drive.

The Wednesday meeting was among the first of what will be a series of critical discussions about Bonanza Drive in the next year. City Hall is tentatively scheduled to tear up the road in 2009 to install a water line. While that work is occurring, officials also hope to upgrade the street to make it more appealing to pedestrians and bicyclists. The details would need to be decided in the months before the work starts.

Park City Engineer Eric DeHaan, a City Hall official with great influence on road projects, says the local government is intrigued by the prospects of Bonanza Drive roundabouts, but he cautions they are not a "magic pill."

DeHaan says, though, he cannot predict whether roundabouts would be successful, and he contends Bonanza Drive would back up at Kearns Boulevard during rush hour even with them. The consultant is better equipped to make those determinations, he says.

DeHaan expects the consultant, H.W. Lochner, Inc., will issue its report in November.