Park City sees possibility of tying gondola network to Winter Olympic monies

The Park Record.

Park City leaders are interested in continuing talks about the prospects of building an aerial transit network and see there being the possibility for assistance with the funding should Salt Lake City and the wider region be awarded a Winter Olympics.

Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council on Thursday held a discussion about aerial transit, essentially a gondola system, that was preliminary in nature. The elected officials want staffers to continue to study the possibilities.

A future Olympics was mentioned several times on Thursday. It was an intriguing point in a broader discussion and signals Park City’s leadership is weighing the financial opportunities a Games could bring.

An Olympic region can enjoy a concentrated amount of funds from Washington in the years before a Games, as the host city and venue cities invest in transportation and infrastructure. The projects are usually seen as being needed in the communities on a long-term basis, but the Olympics can bring the ability to accomplish them on a tight timeline.

Salt Lake City and the Olympic region have been selected as the U.S. candidate city to host a future Winter Olympics. It appears the Games of 2030 or 2034 are possibilities, but it is unclear when a decision will be made regarding which of them will be pursued.

If Salt Lake City is selected, governments throughout the Olympic region will likely seek funds from Washington for a broad list of projects. It appears Park City leaders want to be ready with possibilities should a Games be awarded, potentially putting the community in a position to quickly move if funds are available.

At least three of the members of the City Council mentioned the Olympic possibilities. None of them spoke at length about the Games, though. Officials see the Games as an opportunity to advance City Hall priorities like housing and transportation, typically high-dollar endeavors. Any financial assistance related to a Games would be expected to reduce the burden on the municipal government itself.

The Olympic mentions on Thursday came as the mayor and City Council considered the idea of a gondola system that would be another option in the transit system. A gondola system like the one discussed would be an ambitious project that would link key locations in an effort to fight traffic in the community. Traffic has long been one of the chief concerns of Parkites with the complaints continuing even after officials have taken steps like greatly expanding the transit system over time.

A City Hall consultant has researched a gondola system that would link Old Town, the Park City Mountain Resort base area, the Snow Park area of Deer Valley Resort and the planned location of an arts and culture district City Hall wants to develop along Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive. The total capital cost is estimated to reach nearly $64.2 million, while the projected operations and maintenance cost is estimated at nearly $3.6 million on an annual basis. The numbers are notable at a time of financial uncertainty amid the economic turmoil caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The mayor told the others PCMR and Deer Valley have an interest in the discussions, but he did not provide details. Large developments are envisioned at the base areas of both of the resorts, with the one at PCMR currently before the Park City Planning Commission and the one at Deer Valley anticipated to be put to the Planning Commission in coming years.

Other topics that were mentioned on Thursday included City Councilor Becca Gerber saying Parkites would ride a gondola, City Councilor Max Doilney wondering whether people would choose to take a gondola in the warm-weather months and Beerman acknowledging the projected cost but saying transit in general is expensive.

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