Park City wants Sundance drama on screen, not on roads |

Park City wants Sundance drama on screen, not on roads

Park City transit officials want the drama of the Sundance Film Festival to unfold on screen.

Not on the roads.

The festival opened less than a month after a terrible traffic jam unfolded across Park City that left many drivers stunned. It was perhaps the worst traffic jam in Park City’s history, some said afterward.

Sundance, which opened on Thursday, typically creates some of the worst traffic of the year in Park City. There were extenuating circumstances blamed for the Dec. 29 traffic jam, but officials want to avoid another one during the festival.

Kent Cashel, the transportation planning director for City Hall, said it is best for people to take buses during the festival, something that officials have long recommended as Sundance arrives. The bus schedule is at its peak during Sundance. The City Hall bus system runs extended hours, and a separate theater loop is in operation linking Sundance screening rooms and other important festival sites.

"The best way to get around town is not drive," Cashel said, adding, "You can get to where you need to go. We have buses running virtually anywhere."

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But even though many people depend on the buses during Sundance, Park City roads are normally clogged with personal vehicles anyway. The heaviest traffic seems to be during the opening weekend each year. Drivers on streets like Park Avenue, Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive suffer through frequent backups during Sundance. The traffic sometimes creeps onto side streets as well.

"If everyone decides to drive, we may have another event like that," Cashel said, referring to the December traffic jam.

Park City officials took steps after the December episode to better manage traffic during Sundance. Cashel said Park City staffers discussed the situation with state transportation officials as Sundance approached. Two critical roads in Park City — Park Avenue and Kearns Boulevard — are part of the state highway system and managed by the Utah Department of Transportation.

Cashel said the state department will monitor traffic on the two roads and adjust stoplights if needed to better manage the flow of vehicles. That did not occur during the December traffic jam since the backups were not anticipated, he said.

The Park City Police Department and other agencies will direct traffic at some intersections in Old Town.

Key City Hall staffers, meanwhile, will gather in the municipal government’s emergency operations center. Cashel said transportation officials and the Park City Police Department will be assigned to the center, which is located in the Park Avenue police station. Daily morning briefings are planned at the center.

The Dec. 29 traffic jam occurred on another day when Park City was packed. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is traditionally one of the busiest on Park City’s calendar as holiday skiers descend on the city. A snowstorm that day further complicated the traffic. By the afternoon, backups had become awful. Drivers told stories of taking more than an hour to get between places that would typically take a few minutes.

More information about the transit system, which is fare free, is available at

Potential trouble spots

Prior to Sundance, City Hall published its ‘locals guide’ to the film festival, offering information about roads where backups are expected.

The locations include:

  • Main Street and Swede Alley. The guide outlines that loading zones are in place along Main Street and normal parking is prohibited.

    "This is to accommodate heavy foot traffic during the Festival, and will ensure areas do not become so congested as to become impassible to traffic," the guide says.

  • the Main Street-Heber Avenue intersection. The guide says there are restrictions on Heber Avenue and traffic controls are in place at the intersection. The controls are designed to ensure buses do not get caught in backups, the guide says.
  • Park Avenue between the intersections with 9th Street and Deer Valley Drive-Empire Avenue. It notes that the stretch of Park Avenue is residential.

    "As the Festival progresses and events and screenings are held, Park Avenue will back up," the guide says, noting that parking is limited along the road. The guide suggests that drivers head to Deer Valley Drive as an alternate route.

  • Kearns Boulevard outside the Eccles Center, where Sundance screens many of its star-studded premieres. The guide recommends people take buses or carpool. Traffic is expected to be bad from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.

    "Many locals travel this road to get to work, skiers use it to access Park City Resorts and students and parents use this road to navigate busy daily school schedules," the guide says.

    The guide is available on City Hall’s website, Select ‘Sundance Film Festival’ from the ‘Doing Business’ dropdown menu. Then choose ‘Locals Sundance Guide.’