More Dogs on Main
August 27, 2010
After almost two weeks, the Chinese government has called in the police to try to clear its massive traffic jam. That ought to solve it. Arrest uncooperative drivers and tow their vehicles away. Of course, getting a tow truck through the mess might be a challenge.
What has been dubbed the "great stall of China" is a traffic jam about 65 miles long and six lanes wide on the Beijing-Tibet expressway. Traffic has been at a dead stop for at least 10 days, and the estimates are that even if they get traffic moving at the head of the line, it will be deep into September before it clears. More vehicles are being added to the end of the line all the time.
The problem was apparently caused by an elderly driver in the left lane with his turn signal stuck, and compounded by construction — ironically intended to alleviate the congestion. It’s become a boon to the local economy as residents along the freeway have been selling food, water, and ramen noodles to stranded drivers. The people stuck in the traffic are passing the time playing cards and just waiting it out. For a month.
Well, I’ve only got two words for the Chinese traffic jam: Bonanza Drive.
OK, so it doesn’t take 10 days to get through Bonanza (mostly because you can’t get through at all, and need to go around on Park Avenue). But proportionately, given the relative populations of Park City and China, Bonanza Drive is worse. Of course we also have the tunnel under Kearns Boulevard and other miscellaneous and unexplained excavations in every street in town. Traffic in Park City this summer couldn’t have been any worse if we had decided to throw a bicycle race, marathon, and a few concerts into the middle of the chaos.
I’ve got to admit that the "special events" in town this year have seemed less special and less eventful than usual. The level of road construction has been bad enough that we just really didn’t need anything extra on top of that. Overall, things have worked better than anybody had any right or reason to expect. But it’s not over yet. If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that you don’t get into the car for even the quickest of errands without going to the bathroom first. You never know when you will get stuck in a nine-day traffic jam.
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I have somewhat mixed feelings about the reconstruction of Bonanza Drive. I was involved in the original construction of the street. It just doesn’t seem like it was so long ago that it has to be reconstructed. Bonanza was a funny piece of road alignment. It landed where it landed because that’s where the city could shake down the landowner for the right of way. There are other alignments that would have been straighter, wider, or better connected to other streets. But we got what we got, and built it where it would fit. One of the big challenges was dealing with the Union Pacific Railroad, which still had an active track (that saw about one train a year) along what became Iron Horse Drive.
If you really want to feel insignificant, try to negotiate a grade crossing with the Union Pacific Railroad. The easement actually gave them the right to run over cars without warning. A couple of years later, the tracks were gone and the Rail Trail was born. But imagine how much more fun the Bonanza construction would be if we had to work our way around a set of railroad tracks.
In an unscientific poll, 150 people out of 100 don’t like the "Treasure" project, and think it should be open space. Despite a big push, the public just isn’t warming up to the project. Maybe it would be more appealing if they included a mosque. The original version of the project complied with zoning back in the 1980s and was approved. The new plan is even more ambitious than the original, but there are some vested rights in place, like it or not. So the city is looking at the possibility of buying all or part of the project. Frightening numbers like $20 million are floating around.
It would be great to drive a silver stake through the heart of this monster and put it out of its misery. But $20 million seems as absurd as the plan itself. Here’s a suggestion: Let’s grind through the process and find out what a final approval looks like so there is something to base appraisals on. If, by some miracle, they are able to finance construction, we can talk price. Unless there is some neck-snapping change in the economic climate that makes the real-estate frenzy of a couple of years ago look modest, it’s open space for another 30 years.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs on Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.