Park City, combating traffic crush, turns key street into a one-way road for Sundance
Park City officials on Thursday changed the set design for the Sundance Film Festival in January, choosing to make a dramatic alteration to the traffic pattern in Old Town in an effort to reduce the impact of the crush of cars in the neighborhood each year during the event.
The Park City Council agreed with a recommendation from City Hall staffers to turn a stretch of Park Avenue into a one-way northbound, or outbound, road for Sundance. The impacted section of the road will run between the intersections with Heber Avenue and Deer Valley Drive.
The one-way outbound Park Avenue is expected to shift much of the inbound traffic headed to the Main Street core onto Deer Valley Drive, a road that is seen as better designed to accommodate the Sundance traffic.
Park Avenue, though, will remain open to two-way traffic for residents holding access passes, which will be distributed by City Hall as Sundance approaches. Two-way traffic will also be maintained for others, such as emergency vehicles and City Hall buses. City Hall staffers are crafting an access-pass plan for others who will be required to travel on Park Avenue in both directions.
City Hall said the change will require an increased police presence, access-pass checkpoints and the removal of parking from the east side of Park Avenue. The plan is expected to cost $69,000, according to municipal calculations.
Sundance organizers in recent weeks had argued against the concept of turning Park Avenue into a one-way road, saying in a letter to Park City leaders there are a variety of categories of vehicles that will need access and the one-way Park Avenue could lead to backups elsewhere involving vehicles that would otherwise be on Park Avenue. The letter also noted the Sundance venues along Park Avenue, such as the screening room at the Park City Library.
An outline of the alternatives shown on Thursday indicated Sundance recommended retaining traffic in both directions on Park Avenue coupled with increased security on the side streets. The outline indicates staffers would have recommended Park Avenue parking be removed from both sides under that scenario.
The overall plan also includes turning 4th Street and 5th Street into one-way roads between Main Street and Park Avenue in the eastbound direction, which will block Main Street traffic from turning into the Old Town neighborhood. Hillside Avenue, meanwhile, will be turned into a one-way road in the westbound direction, or the direction toward Main Street. The Hillside Avenue change will stop drivers on Main Street from using the tiny road as an outlet.
Betsy Wallace, the managing director and chief financial officer of Sundance, addressed the elected officials on Thursday, saying the one-way Park Avenue change will push the traffic to Deer Valley Drive. The traffic flow will be “reliant on one road,” Wallace said. Wallace also said Sundance has sent maps for the festival to the press.
The elected officials covered a variety of topics, including City Councilor Nann Worel noting emergency vehicles need to be able to navigate the changes. Lynn Ware Peek, another city councilor, wondered how someone in Old Town, such as on Woodside Avenue, will drive to their place. Jenny Diersen, the economic development program manager at City Hall, said someone in that scenario would have an access pass and be waved through any checkpoint.
The changes to the overall traffic plan for Sundance in 2020 follow mounting complaints about the gridlock that has become commonplace during the event, particularly in Old Town. There have been concerns about parking as well as drivers circling while looking for a place to leave their vehicles. Main Street and Park Avenue descend into bumper-to-bumper traffic at many points during Sundance, and drivers looking for alternatives sometimes move onto residential streets.
The 2020 edition of Sundance is scheduled to open on Jan. 23. It is common for City Hall and organizers to make a series of operational alterations to the event each year, but the move involving one-way traffic on Park Avenue is especially notable.
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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.