Major traffic jam, perhaps the worst ever, clogs Park City roads
There are numerous horror stories about driving in Park City on Monday as large holiday crowds navigated through the area during what was one of the busiest weeks of the year.
Rob O’Brien likely tells some of the best.
The owner of 649-TAXI, a Park City-based taxi and shuttle service, spent the day dispatching drivers.
"Worst in 20 years that I’ve ever experienced in town," O’Brien said about the traffic on Monday.
The scene in Park City Monday afternoon was extraordinary. As the snow continued to fall and skiers started leaving Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort, traffic crawled through the city. Taillights snaked up the road in front of drivers while headlights filled the rearview mirror.
Vehicle counts are not available from Monday, but both PCMR and Deer Valley were jammed. Drivers leaving the resort tend to bottleneck toward Park Avenue, Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard, but the traffic jams on Monday appeared to extend well beyond those seen on a normal ski afternoon.
"It was busy everywhere. There was no sneaking around . . . The taxi guys know those," O’Brien said.
The traffic appeared to be worse between 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., he said. The taxi company’s drivers reported it took 75 minutes during the worst times to drive between PCMR and Prospector.
Elsewhere, a driver relayed to O’Brien, traffic was at a crawl along Deer Valley Drive close to Snow Park Lodge. It took 90 minutes for the driver to make it from Snow Park Lodge to Stonebridge navigating through Solamere in an attempt to avoid the traffic on Deer Valley Drive, O’Brien said.
"It was basically gridlock. I couldn’t believe it," he said.
The Park City Police Department watched the situation unfold. Rick Ryan, a police captain, said officers could do little to untangle the traffic since stoplights are synchronized between Park City and Kimball Junction. Had police officers directed drivers themselves, the officers’ instructions would not have been coordinated with the stoplights, Ryan said.
"We were monitoring the traffic and assessing the traffic flows and found it best to not manually move the traffic," he said.
Ryan, a member of the Police Department since 1985, said the traffic on Monday was "probably the worst I’ve ever seen," describing a combination of large crowds and snowy weather. He said drivers pulling into intersections attempting to make green lights added to the problems when lights changed with them still in the intersections.
"Sheer numbers of people in vehicles was bigger than anything I’ve seen," Ryan said. "Even Sundance doesn’t compare to what we had."
Ryan said it took him 45 minutes to drive between the Park Avenue police station and Silver Lake Village at approximately 5 p.m. He was traveling in the other direction of the traffic leaving the mountain resorts. The drive normally takes between 10 and 15 minutes, he said. Officers reported it took one hour to drive between the Old Town roundabout and Quinn’s Junction.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s traditionally draws large crowds to Park City for ski vacations. The Park City Chamber/Bureau reports lodging occupancy, starting on Dec. 26, was up approximately three percentage points from the same time last year. The projected numbers remain strong through Jan. 2, Chamber/Bureau President and CEO Bill Malone said.
Lodging occupancy reached its high point for the holidays on Saturday, hitting approximately 75 percent, Malone said. He estimated there were approximately 18,000 visitors staying overnight in the Park City area on Dec. 27.
"It feels busy. It feels like Christmas," Malone said.
There have been should-to-shoulder crowds at some points along Main Street. Alison Butz, the executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance, said it has been crowded on the street since the week before Christmas. Anecdotal reports indicate some restaurants are busier than the same time in 2013 and that sales at some stores are matching the numbers from last year, she said.
"I’m not hearing any people feeling like it’s falling short," Butz said. "No one seems disappointed."
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Park City leaders are scheduled to receive a briefing from the Summit County health director about the state of the novel coronavirus. Phil Bondurant’s appearance at a Park City Council meeting is slated less than two months before the scheduled opening of the ski season.