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Hospital traffic: no problem

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Many commuters are already dismayed with the traffic on S.R. 248.

And there’s not much built at Quinn’s Junction, the highway’s intersection with U.S. 40, where drivers sometimes face morning backups on their way to work in Park City or as they head to the area’s mountain resorts.

But Intermountain Healthcare officials want to construct a medical complex at Quinn’s Junction. It would be anchored by Park City’s first modern-day hospital and would be the largest development at Quinn’s Junction thus far. There have been talks of other projects at the sprawling intersection, probably residential in nature, but the hospital has been advancing at City Hall and the others are generally ideas only.

The IHC team shepherding the hospital idea through the city’s Planning Commission is confident the project will not terribly snarl traffic and has offered ideas to ensure that is the case.

At City Hall, Park City Engineer Eric DeHaan, who monitors traffic for the local government, agrees commuters should not be leery of the hospital.

DeHaan says people usually will not be driving to the hospital at the same time as Park City’s morning rush hour, road improvements near the hospital site will help and IHC’s plans to offer workers transit alternatives will reduce traffic.

"They’re not going to contribute to the backup," DeHaan says about the hospital staffers. "That’s because they’ll be there before or after the backup."

The traffic backups on S.R. 248, known as Kearns Boulevard in Park City, are notorious for starting outside the Park City School District campus on the eastern edge of the city and extending toward Quinn’s Junction, where the hospital site is.

DeHaan explains the hospital staffers, patients and other visitors driving from the east would exit S.R. 248 at a spot where the congestion is just starting. They would not add to the backup as the rest of the drivers move toward Park City, he says, adding traffic to the hospital is expected to be heavier on U.S. 40, the most direct route to the site from North Summit, South Summit and Wasatch County.

Consultants for IHC have determined the hospital will attract 2,073 drivers each weekday and the adjacent medical offices would bring in another 1,084. Those would be added to the estimated 1,585 drivers traveling to the nearby Park City recreation complex and the 505 vehicles anticipated to be traveling to the United States Ski and Snowboard Association’s headquarters, which would be built near the hospital.

Morgan Busch, the IHC executive leading the company’s development efforts, says consultants in fall 2005 determined daily weekday trips on S.R. 248 at the location totaled 15,405.

Still, the company agreed to install a stoplight, upgrade a frontage road near the hospital site and build two bus stops, one where the Ski Team will be and another at the hospital. Busch also says the hospital will schedule shifts around rush hour, so workers will typically not be driving to or from the campus when the rest of Park City’s workforce, skiers and students are clogging S.R. 248.

"We have the ability to stagger our work shifts," Busch says. "Clearly it’s in our interest to do that."

City officials and the IHC team have been in long-running talks about the hospital, resulting in a mid-2006 deal in which Park City agreed to annex 157 acres at the northwest corner of Quinn’s Junction for the hospital and the related development. Since then, IHC and the city’s Planning Commission have been engaged in more detailed discussions about the design of the hospital.

There has been little interest from regular Parkites in the talks, even as traffic complaints are widespread this winter along S.R. 248. During previous hearings, people supported the idea, saying the population of the area warrants a hospital in Summit County. People in Summit County now typically visit local clinics, travel to an IHC hospital in Heber or go to the Salt Lake Valley for their health care.

IHC wants to build a 129,000-square-foot hospital, another 50,000 square feet of doctor offices and up to an additional 25,000 square feet of space for not-for-profits in the first construction phase. Eventually, the company envisions the hospital expanding to 300,000 square feet and the doctor offices stretching through 125,000 square feet. Officials with IHC have said the additional space would be built over years.

Busch says IHC wants to break ground on the hospital in the spring and he expects the first phase, estimated to be an $83 million project, will take 20 months to build.

Michael O’Hara, the chairman of the Planning Commission, says there would be more worries if development at the site was residential, says the hospital’s traffic numbers "will be fairly minimal" and argues requirements like the bus stops will cut traffic.

"If I lived in Prospector and I’m working at the hospital, I can ride the bus to work," O’Hara says.


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