Park City gridlock steals the scene during Sundance
January 29, 2019
Peter Marth possesses a front-row seat to the Sundance Film Festival without ever needing to leave his Old Town home.
Marth, a Hillside Avenue resident and a longtime critic of City Hall's management of traffic in the southern reaches of Old Town, watched as the backups mounted during the opening days of Sundance.
Hillside Avenue is a small but strategically located street that provides access between Marsac Avenue and Main Street. People who live on streets like Daly Avenue, upper Park Avenue and Norfolk Avenue commonly opt for Hillside Avenue, but taxis, shuttles and Sundance-goers descended on the street as traffic became worse.
"I just saw a maximum amount of cars, dead stop, going in both directions," Marth said about Hillside Avenue during the first days of Sundance. "It's a narrow, 12-foot-wide road."
He said the traffic was a "free for all" on Friday night before flaggers were stationed on Hillside Avenue on Saturday and Sunday.
Marth's observations are likely shared by many people who live in Old Town. Sundance traffic is normally some of the worst of the year, and the opening weekend is typically the time when the traffic crush is at its height. City Hall and Sundance spend extensive time on traffic and transportation plans, but many Parkites seem to share dismay nonetheless.
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It was not clear early in the week whether the traffic in Old Town was worse than other years of Sundance, but there is anecdotal evidence from people like Marth that the weekend was especially difficult on Old Town roads.
"It's just incremental increases in volume year after year," Marth said, adding, "More and more times it's jammed."
City Hall distributed access passes designed to allow people in certain parts of Old Town to drive past checkpoints. The access passes may be required on residential streets south of 15th Street. Park City officials have declined to provide details about the locations and hours of the checkpoints, citing operational security. The access passes were required at some points and locations, but at other times nobody was stationed along the Hillside Avenue route toward Old Town.
The traffic involves a mix of Park City residents, members of the workforce, skiers and festival-goers in their private automobiles. Taxis, shuttles and ridesharing services add to the traffic during Sundance as they arrive in large numbers for the brisk business of the festival.
The Park City Police Department received a series of complaints during the first days of Sundance that centered on traffic in Old Town. Some of those complaints were lodged south of 15th Street, the section of Old Town where the access passes may be required.
Phil Kirk, a Police Department captain, said Old Town streets, typically narrow, two-lane roads, became stressed with the traffic.
"There's going to be backups. There's going to be gridlock occasionally," Kirk said, adding, "We're hoping people are patient and understanding that during Sundance . . . that we're trying to do the best we can to minimize the traffic backups."
The Police Department reports included:
• on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 6:59 p.m., drivers were reported to be reaching Ontario Avenue on their way to Marsac Avenue, creating a traffic jam.
• on Jan. 26 at 5:52 p.m., officers were called to Norfolk Avenue, where traffic was reported to be in gridlock. The police at 5:04 p.m. that day also received a gridlock complaint on Norfolk Avenue. Gridlock was also reported on Norfolk Avenue at 3:52 p.m., on the stretch of the street between 8th Street and the Park City Library.
• on Jan. 26 at 5:30 p.m., cars were reported to be "racing down the street" in the vicinity of the 1400 block of Woodside Avenue. The drivers did not have the proper permits, apparently the access passes, for that section of Old Town, the police were told.
• on Jan. 26 at 3:49 p.m., there was traffic on 8th Street as pedestrians were walking on the road. The person who contacted the Police Department said they "thought traffic was supposed to be local traffic only," according to agency logs.