Neighbors pitted against commuters
Joe Maslowski is grateful drivers are no longer allowed to legally make some left-hand turns into Prospector during the morning rush hour.
Dan Vorkink is not.
The opinions from the two men highlight the quandary unfolding along Park City’s S.R. 248 entryway, as transportation officials try to handle the lines of commuters who arrive on S.R. 248, known as Kearns Boulevard in the city.
Crews reinstalled signs prohibiting rush-hour left-hand turns from westbound Kearns Boulevard onto Wyatt Earp Way and Buffalo Bill Drive. Before they went up, lots of commuters, trying to avoid traffic backups on Kearns Boulevard, especially outside the Park City School District campus, turned left onto the side streets as a shortcut to work.
People like Maslowski who live in the neighborhood are happy there is less traffic now that the signs are up but commuters such as Vorkink face longer drives to work because, they say, there is more traffic.
"Our hope is that the signs will be respected and people won’t come through the neighborhood during the morning commute," says Maslowski, who lives on Wyatt Earp Way.
But for Vorkink, who commutes to his office on Sidewinder Drive from Midway, being forced onto Kearns Boulevard instead of his normal route, on side streets in Prospector, has doubled the time it takes him to get to work, he says.
Before the signs were posted, the trip took 20 minutes. Since they went up, Vorkink says, the commute has been 40 minutes.
"The signs have been up two days. Two days in a row, traffic has been backed up," Vorkink says, charging that the neighbors’ complaints that commuters sped through the streets on their way to work are unfounded. "Nobody zips through that neighborhood. I haven’t seen it and I drive through every single day."
The signs were reinstalled late Tuesday afternoon and were posted more than a year after they were removed. They were originally installed more than four years ago, as part of a major widening of the road, but then removed after enforcing the restrictions became cumbersome.
S.R. 248 is the most direct route into Park City from the East Side of Summit County and Wasatch County and is heavily traveled in the morning. The signs ban the turns from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m. and an electronic message board warns drivers of the rule as well.
In November, neighbors in Prospector pressed City Hall to reinstall the signs, saying that traffic ticked upward once they were removed. The local government at that time, however, did not hear widespread concerns from the commuters like Vorkink, who this week were dismayed with the backups.
Phil Kirk, a Police Department lieutenant, reports officers are busy patrolling the intersections where the signs are posted. On Wednesday morning, he says, himself, a sergeant and two officers stopped about 75 drivers between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Most turned left onto Wyatt Earp Way from Kearns Boulevard, he says.
"We saw numerous cars turn . . . I think many of them didn’t see the signs," Kirk says, adding that the number fell sharply, to three, on Thursday.
He acknowledges, though, the signs are creating backups on Kearns Boulevard. He says the commuters face "significant delay" with the signs. About five people complained to him about the traffic but about 10 people a day who live in Prospector have said they appreciate the signs.
"It’s certainly upset a number of people who are commuters," Kirk says.
The lieutenant expects the Police Department will cut its extra patrols related to the signs by the end of next week but officers will continue to regularly monitor the intersections. If drivers continue to turn onto the streets, however, Kirk says officers could still be assigned to the intersections.
Kirk says the officers did not write tickets to drivers making the turns in the first few days but expects they will begin citing people this week.
"We’re educating people, bringing it to their attention," he says.
Traffic complaints have been widespread in Park City for years but they have been particularly intense in recent months, as the city’s booming economy has created scores of jobs. Lots of the people working in Park City, though, do not live locally, commuting from fast-growing places like Wasatch County and the East Side.
Maslowski, the Wyatt Earp Way resident, says drivers speed often and they frequently do not stop at stop signs. He says the neighborhood is safer when the police enforce the signs.
"What we’re trying to prevent is frustrated drivers venting by driving through the neighborhood," he says.
But Vorkink, the commuter from Midway, claims the signs are not fair to drivers. The streets, he says, are public and the drivers should not be forced off of them because neighbors are unhappy.
"It serves that small subsection of the community but it effects everybody," Vorkink says.
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