Neighbors want highway stoplight
Under pressure from neighbors, City Hall plans to investigate whether another stoplight should be installed on S.R. 224, the busy state highway that connects Park City and Kimball Junction.
If one is put up, the new stoplight would continue the longstanding dispute, often unspoken, between neighbors and the commuters who travel on the two city’s entryways. It would also be seen as a victory for regular Parkites, who have been frustrated with the traffic for years and, this winter, have seemed even more dismayed.
The Park City Council recently instructed City Hall staffers to pursue a stoplight at the S.R. 224-Meadows Drive intersection, the northernmost intersection on the state highway in the city limits. Park City Engineer Eric DeHaan says he intends to negotiate an agreement with state transportation officials to build the stoplight.
S.R. 224 is part of the state highway system. It runs from Kimball Junction, south through the city and into the Empire Pass area.
DeHaan predicts a stoplight, which the Utah Department of Transportation needs to approve, could be put up in the fall, as early as September or as late as November. DeHaan estimates City Hall’s share of the stoplight will run about $150,000, roughly half the overall cost.
During a recent meeting, the elected officials picked the stoplight option instead of building a roundabout at the location. A roundabout, DeHaan says in a report to Mayor Dana Williams and the City Council, could cost "well over one million dollars." The city could someday later reconsider a roundabout, though.
People who live in Park Meadows are worried about making turns onto S.R. 224 and are especially anxious for the stoplight. During the recent meeting, some worried about wrecks.
Bill Gorton, who lives in Ridgeview, says in an interview he supports the City Council’s move toward a stoplight. He says there are "plenty of times it’s pretty dicey."
"That’s exactly what we wanted . . . It’s a dangerous intersection, pure and simple," Gorton says, adding, "It’s only a question of time, in my estimation, we’ll have a serious accident there."
There are few stoplights in the city’s limits and all are situated along the two state highways that act as Park City’s entryways. There is frequently resistance to stoplights, with Parkites sometimes saying the additions detract from the mountain-town setting that Park City likes to exude.
But traffic, many Parkites say, has become terrible and the complaints have been widespread this winter. The most recent complaints have generally targeted S.R. 248, the other entryway, but S.R. 224 also upsets Parkites.
Commuters will probably dread a stoplight adding a little bit of time to their drive, but the neighbors will be delighted that they will not have to challenge traffic as they make turns.
The quandary was apparent as the City Council discussed the options, with Roger Harlan saying he is concerned a stoplight will diminish the view. City Hall has tried to preserve the S.R. 224 corridor as a scenic entryway, buying large swaths of open space and erecting a sculpture commemorating the 2002 Winter Olympics.
"I wish we didn’t have to do a light," Harlan said.
DeHaan says a stoplight will serve people making turns at the intersection and pedestrians trying to cross S.R. 224 and says the project would also include crosswalks. He describes a stoplight as equalizing the intersection between the drivers on S.R. 224 and those making turns from the side streets, calling the state highway a bully because it has more traffic and drivers are traveling faster.
"Those are the ones advantaged by the signal," he says, referring to drivers making turns and the pedestrians.
The elected officials’ desire to pursue a stoplight rejects a determination by state transportation officials, who found that the intersection does not warrant one. According to DeHaan’s report, 32,500 cars each day were tallied on the state highway but the number is not enough to convince the state that a stoplight is needed.
DeHaan says the state determined there are "adequate gaps" in S.R. 224 traffic for people to turn left from Meadows Drive, that the traffic on Meadows Drive is "not very high" and a stoplight would not prevent lots of crashes. The number of pedestrians was "not high enough" as well, according to DeHaan’s analysis of the report.
He says state transportation officials also worry about a stoplight’s effect on a high-tech system that attempts to manage traffic flow on S.R. 224 by adjusting the time between red and green lights.
"Ain’t no tourist going to like seeing a red light," DeHaan says.
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Park City has launched a survey designed to learn about travel habits during a winter that was unlike any other in the skiing era of the community. Transportation for decades has been a key element of the municipal government’s overall plans for any ski season, but major alterations were made to routes and operations in response to the coronavirus concerns.