Options offered to unclog highway
A consultant hired by City Hall and state transportation officials next week will unveil ambitious options to ease traffic along the clogged S.R. 248 entryway, a set of ideas that could greatly alter what has become an annoying commute for droves of Park City workers.
The options, which the consultant has been considering as part of an overarching review of S.R. 248, would require exceptional amounts of work and funding. Each of them would either create additional traffic lanes or introduce transit buses to the highway.
S.R. 248 is the widely used two-lane state highway that enters Park City from Quinn’s Junction, and people who live in the eastern Snyderville Basin, the East Side of Summit County and Wasatch County regularly drive on S.R. 248. Traffic flows easily most of the day, but the rush hours have become troublesome, with cars backing up to Quinn’s Junction in the morning.
The ideas include:
Installing a reversible lane. Under the scenario, S.R. 248 would have three lanes, with the center lane carrying traffic inbound or outbound depending on the time of the day. During the morning rush hour, the lane would carry inbound traffic. In the afternoon, cars heading out of Park City would have access to the lane. The rest of the time, it would serve as a turning lane. A third lane could also be used by buses.
Widening S.R. 248 to four lanes, with two of the lanes then dedicated to buses and vehicles with at least two people inside.
Widening the state highway to four lanes, with two of them eastbound and two of them westbound.
Building what the consultant calls queue-jump bus lanes. Lanes like those are put close to intersections, and they have shorter red lights than regular lanes. With the shorter red lights, the buses have a jump start on the traffic. The consultant, however, says the queue jump bus lanes would not work on S.R. 248.
The consultant, engineer Laynee Jones, said it is possible to widen S.R. 248 to four lanes without significantly impacting the wetlands on the Rail Trail side of the highway or the mountainside on the PC Hill side. She said, however, state transportation officials would need to grant exceptions to their typical highway-building standards to allow narrower lanes or narrower shoulders.
"My gut says, yes, the public will want something to be done," Jones said, anticipating wide-ranging support for options that call for buses on S.R. 248.
She hopes to formally recommend one of the options by December. Afterward, it is likely City Hall and the Utah Department of Transportation would hold lengthy talks before road construction commences.
There is not a bus route on S.R. 248, but officials have long indicated one is planned. A park-and-ride parking lot is under construction near Quinn’s Junction, and bus service will be required to the lot. Meanwhile, facilities like the Quinn’s Junction recreation complex and a hospital are either open or under construction nearby, with the likelihood of buses one day serving them.
A study has found driving S.R. 248 between its intersections with S.R. 224 and U.S. 40 takes about 12 minutes in the morning rush hour, if there are no accidents or construction, and the route takes about 11 minutes to drive in the afternoon rush hour. Without traffic, the drive should take four or five minutes, the study found.
On the busiest days, 20,000 vehicles use the S.R. 248 entryway, and the number is expected to climb to between 30,000 and 40,000 by 2020.
"I think they experience a lot of delay to get into town. The queues at the intersections are long," Jones said.
An open house about the options for S.R. 248 is scheduled Tuesday, Sept. 30 at the Shadow Ridge Resort Hotel and Conference Center, 50 Shadow Ridge Road. The hotel is across the street from Park City Mountain Resort. The open house is scheduled from 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. City Hall officials and the consultants plan to attend.
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