‘People and cars don’t mix’
Wade Souza anticipates his 2-year-old son in a few years will be a pupil in the Park City School District, traveling each day between the family house on Doc Holliday Drive and the schools campus across Kearns Boulevard.
Students walking or riding their bicycles now must cross the busy street, part of the state highway system, to reach school from Prospector. Souza sees the crossing being safer by the time his son reaches the age when he starts school, a result of a long-discussed pedestrian-bicyclist tunnel that City Hall is preparing to build at the Kearns Boulevard-Comstock Drive intersection.
"It just takes one, in my opinion. People and cars don’t mix," Souza said Tuesday about the danger of an accident involving a driver and a pedestrian or a bicyclist.
Souza was among a handful of people who attended an open house held at Treasure Mountain International School as the crews started prepping the site for the tunnel. The beginning of the construction of retaining walls, rock walls and concrete stairs is scheduled by June 23.
City Hall, which is building the tunnel with money voters authorized for pedestrian and bicyclist improvements, anticipates a completion date by Aug. 20, in time for the start of the next school year. The Park City Council recently authorized a contract worth just more than $1 million for the work.
Some of the details about the tunnel and the related work include:
It will be 123 feet long, 12 feet wide and 9 feet tall. The floor of the tunnel will be approximately 15 feet below the road surface. There will be four lights inside and five lights approaching each side of the tunnel.
The crosswalk across Kearns Boulevard at the Comstock Drive intersection will be removed.
The stoplight at the intersection will remain in place, but pedestrians will not be able to activate it as they are able to now.
There will eventually be artwork inside the tunnel, with the School District being instrumental in deciding what sort of art is put up.
The work enjoys widespread support from Parkites, who overwhelmingly approved the ballot measure that provided the funding. There have been long-running concerns about the safety of the crossing there now. Kearns Boulevard is one of the busiest streets in the Park City area, and commuter traffic frequently clogs the road at the same time the school day is starting.
Mo Hickey, a member of the Park City Board of Education who attended the Tuesday open house, said he envisions students in elementary school will use the tunnel at a higher rate than middle school and high school students. He said the older students will need to be acclimated.
"I think they will use it once they get used to it. I think it will be simple," Hickey said, predicting that the route to the schools will take less time since students will not have to wait for a stoplight like they do now. "It’s an added benefit — it will be quicker."
The tunnel will encourage more students to walk or ride a bicycle to school, he said. City Hall sees the tunnel as a key project as officials attempt to make Park City a safer place for pedestrians, bicyclists and others not driving cars. It was among the top projects as leaders crafted a plan for upgrades that would receive earmarks from the bond monies.
Another pedestrian-bicyclist tunnel, under Bonanza Drive close to the Rail Trail, is planned to be built this year as well. It will also be funded through the bond monies.
Leaders and activists see the upgrades as essential to discouraging people from using vehicles to get between places in Park City. They say the improvements will reduce traffic and cut emissions.
Charlie Sturgis, the executive director of the Mountain Trails Foundation, a not-for-profit group dedicated to expanding the trails system, said people heading to nearby fields and trails will also use the tunnel. He said it is "amazing" there has not been a bad accident involving a driver and a student crossing Kearns Boulevard.
"Let’s put it this way, you don’t want to have an accident out there with a child, no matter what," Sturgis said.
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