European trip planned by City Hall, Summit County

Representatives from City Hall and the County Courthouse are expected to travel to Europe shortly as part of a group that will study transportation systems in communities in the Alps.

Park City leaders spent time on Thursday discussing the trip. Summit County Councilors briefly addressed the topic at a meeting on Wednesday. It appears the group will travel in the middle of February.

The local officials would join a contingent from the Mountain Accord and figures from governments along the Wasatch Front. The Mountain Accord is a group of 20-plus government entities, not-for-profit organizations and corporate interests designing long-term plans for the Wasatch Mountains. The Mountain Accord is studying numerous issues, with transportation being among the most important.

City Councilors Liza Simpson and Dick Peek emerged as the elected officials that plan to travel to Europe. Simpson said public transit is important to her as Mayor Jack Thomas and the City Council discussed the trip. City Councilman Andy Beerman, Park City’s representative to the Mountain Accord and a member of the group’s executive board, will not be a part of the trip.

City Hall could also send a staffer on the trip.

The cost was not known at the meeting. Beerman said it is likely the Mountain Accord will pay most or all of the cost. City Hall staffers said they anticipate providing details in a report that will be drafted prior to a City Council meeting scheduled on Jan. 29.

Beerman said in an interview the trip itinerary, covering approximately one week, will primarily take the travelers to Switzerland. There is a possibility the itinerary will also include a stop in Austria, France or Italy. Beerman said one of the places that the trip could visit is Zermatt, a mountainous region in Switzerland. It is a well-known ski destination. Beerman said the European communities that will be visited have broad transportation systems, including trains, gondolas and funiculars.

"They have an integrated transit system that’s not reliant on cars," Beerman said, adding, "I think we’d be looking at how effective it is."

Park City leaders have for years studied other mountain resorts in an effort to learn ways the community could operate better, including an annual trip to a destination in the West. They say the communities share many concerns unique to small mountain towns, such as growth, transportation and environmental issues.

The Park City government over the past 20 years has occasionally sent officials or delegations abroad, most notably during the 2002 Winter Olympics era as City Hall figures studied other Olympic communities.

The upcoming trip to Europe is scheduled as City Hall continues to discuss traffic and transportation issues, which are a priority for Park City leaders. The Mountain Accord stresses transportation as one of its central issues.

There has been broad talk about improvements to Park City’s transportation systems for years, including the prospects of alternative transit forms such as gondolas, with limited progress.

The trip will come at a time of heightened awareness of traffic and transportation issues, including following a terrible traffic jam in Park City during the holidays.

Chris Robinson, a Summit County Councilor and the vice chair of the executive board of the Mountain Accord, said he is considering traveling to Europe with the group. Another County Councilor and a Summit County staffer could also be part of the trip, he said. Robinson said the European stops could offer lessons about linking communities, including via trains.

"Europe has taken it to a high level and has done it for a long time," Robinson said, adding, "My impression is they have many clusters of resorts and Alpine villages that are connected by rail."

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