Lowly pothole creates mighty traffic jam for I-80 travelers
Park City has rolled out an expensive welcome mat for winter visitors but, this week, travelers on Interstate 80 felt anything but welcome. It started with a raging snowstorm that erased visibility and slowed traffic to a crawl.
But ski resort-bound drivers know that is part of the territory when they head into the mountains. The surprise, and disappointment, was that even when the snow cleared up, traffic didn’t.
An epidemic of potholes along Parley’s Summit, posing a significant traffic hazard in both eastbound and westbound lanes, forced the Utah Department of Transportation to restrict travel, at times to one lane in each direction, in order to patch the offending ruts.
The closures, which continued throughout the week, caused major delays coast to coast, but locally, the most frustrating aspect of the ensuing road maintentance is the effect it is having on visitors who were drawn to Park City, in part, because of an aggressive advertising campaign touting the accessibility from the airport.
Unfortunately, UDOT’s oversight in not fixing the eroding road base earlier in the season has undone a lot of the community’s hard work to make the coming holiday season successful.
Everyone from ski area workers and Salt Lake commuters to destination skiers arriving in Park City for the first time were severely inconvenienced by as much as hour-long delays on I-80. Not exactly a great first impression.
UDOT’s lack of foresight, however, has not been the only problem on local highways this month. Icy road conditions or a fender bender on either of the two entryways to Park City creates a ripple effect that can be felt from Heber to Parley’s Summit. Winter weather combined with Park City’s growing popularity, especially during the holidays, is straining the area’s already bustling roadways. If it is not already, improving traffic circulation should be near the top of both Park City’s and Summit County’s agendas. As for UDOT, let’s just call it a hard learned lesson about why it is important to maintain the Interstate before temperatures fall below zero.
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Hotel occupancy in the Park City area during Sundance is projected to drop dramatically from a typical year as organizers shift the event online.