Rails, gondolas, roads: area officials head to Swiss Alps next week
Officials from Park City and Summit County are scheduled to travel to Europe next week to study transportation systems in the Swiss Alps as part of a wide-ranging effort in the Wasatch Mountains region to plan for growth.
City Hall will send two members of the Park City Council — Liza Simpson and Dick Peek — as well as Ann Ober, a policy adviser. Summit County Councilors Roger Armstrong and Kim Carson will represent the County Courthouse on the trip.
The trip departs on Feb. 14 and returns a week later. The travelers are scheduled to visit Swiss communities like Zermatt, Lucerne, Grindelwald, Saas-Fee, Wengen and Interlaken. Ober said the trip could include a side visit to Italy. At least two mountain resorts will be on the itinerary.
Ober said the trip will study a range of transportation-related topics and will offer opportunities to learn about ski lifts, gondolas, bus lines and trains. Mountain tunnels will also be studied. She said the travelers will walk through a tunnel that is under construction in Switzerland.
Ober wants to learn how the individual communities in the Swiss region have kept their individualism. She also wants to see how the areas are connected "in the smartest way possible."
"Is it even possible to connect and retain our identity," she also said, adding, "It’s a question of is it a right move for our community."
A group called Mountain Accord organized the trip. Mountain Accord, which consists of government entities, not-for-profit organizations and corporate interests, is preparing a broad plan for the Wasatch Mountains involving issues like transportation, the environment and the economy. The officials from Park City and Summit County will join representatives from other governments or groups that are part of Mountain Accord.
Ober said Mountain Accord is funding the trips by the two City Councilors. City Hall will pay for Ober to attend. The cost is estimated at approximately $3,500 for Ober’s trip. Ober said she has not visited the destinations before. Armstrong said Mountain Accord is paying the airfare to Europe and lodging while the County Courthouse will pay for food, rail tickets and incidentals.
Armstrong said it is worthwhile to learn about transportation and transit systems in Zermatt and the other stops in Europe. Armstrong said he wants to talk to officials in Switzerland about transportation challenges and solutions. He said he wants to learn about bus shelters and bus stops, including whether Wi-Fi is available at transportation hubs and on the transportation systems themselves. He said he wants to study the types of buses that are used and rail lines are of interest.
Armstrong, though, said he is "suspicious" whether the trip will convince him to support some ideas discussed through Mountain Accord, such as a connection between the Park City area and the Cottonwood Canyons. He said, as an example, there are differences between places like Park City and Zermatt since Park City is situated close to a metropolitan area.
Armstrong said he is concerned about aspects of Mountain Accord, including whether there would be benefits to Park City and Summit County if a road or rail connection is someday built between the Park City area and the Cottonwood Canyons. He is worried about impacts on businesses and on growth.
The trip will be a rare overseas outing on official business for City Hall or the County Courthouse. There have been few trips abroad in recent years, and those have centered on relationship building or tourism promotion rather than studying critical systems like transportation.
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