Rail Trail route talks drive more resistance | ParkRecord.com

Rail Trail route talks drive more resistance

Concerns raised about impact on neighborhood property values

Roger Strand has lived in Park Meadows for 25 years, regularly driving the S.R. 248 corridor that has long been one of Park City's traffic chokepoints.

Strand offered a solution to S.R. 248 on Wednesday evening at a City Hall-organized open house covering numerous municipal and other projects. In an interview, Strand said officials with Park City and the Utah Department of Transportation should consider widening the state highway by eight feet to the north, something that would require road builders carve a route out of a hillside on the northern edge of the road.

That, Strand said, would be preferred to a concept that involves turning the Rail Trail corridor, on the other side of S.R. 248 from the hillside, into a transportation route. The prospects of the Rail Trail corridor being made into a transportation route have received widespread publicity recently as the Utah Department of Transportation outlined that an environmental assessment will be performed as part of an effort considering road-capacity improvements. There is also a chance state transportation officials could opt not to make improvements.

The talk about a transportation route stems from an earlier process, in 2009, that devised various options for the corridor, including the possibility of a route along the path of the Rail Trail. Another option involves reconfiguring the existing stretch of S.R. 248 between Quinn's Junction and the S.R. 224 intersection.

"Almost dumb beyond belief," Strand said about the prospects of a route along the Rail Trail path.

The open house table dedicated to S.R. 248 appeared to draw more attention on Wednesday evening than some of the others, which were dedicated to various projects or programs that are part of the City Hall work plan.

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People like Strand studied basic information about S.R. 248 and engaged City Hall staffers in discussions about the road. The discussions about the state highway are in the early stages, and it did not appear the talks between people at the open house and the staffers were detailed in nature.

Strand said another possibility that could improve the traffic along the S.R. 248 entryway involves eliminating the street-level pedestrian crossing outside the Park City School District campus and replacing the crossing with a bridge or tunnel for students walking or bicycling to school.

He said a transportation route along the Rail Trail corridor would depress the value of properties in Prospector and impact what he considers to be a "Park City treasure." The Rail Trail, along the route of a historic railroad line, runs between Park City and Echo. It is popular with bicyclists and hikers.

Strand said he would consider joining a lawsuit if one is filed in an attempt to stop the Rail Trail corridor from becoming a transportation route.

Alfred Knotts, the transportation planning manager at City Hall and an official heavily involved in the S.R. 248 discussions, was one of the staffers manning the S.R. 248 table. He said several people who stopped at the table were interested in the process and schedules. Knotts said he told them about plans by City Hall and the Utah Department of Transportation to hold a scoping meeting in Park City in November. State transportation officials did not attend the open house. Knotts said he is well versed in the topic, making it unnecessary for the Utah Department of Transportation to be present on Wednesday.

"This is a lengthy process. There's going to be a ton of opportunity for public comment," Knotts said.

Approximately 40 people attended the open house, including at least two members of the Park City Council. The crowd perused municipal projects like housing development in Old Town, a plaza along Main Street and an idea to create an arts and culture district off Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive.

Clair Christoffersen, who has lived in Prospector for 19 years, was one of the people studying the possibility of a transportation route along the Rail Trail corridor. He said Parkites have long supported conserving land like the Rail Trail.

"Park City battles for all this open space. We battled for the Rail Trail," he said.

He questioned whether a transportation route could be designed to properly intersect with Bonanza Drive. Christoffersen instead described an idea of removing bicycle lanes from S.R. 248 and expanding the state highway toward the hillside. He also supports the idea of creating reversible lanes on S.R. 248 that would change direction depending on the time of day.

"They're going to make bad decisions and it's not going to solve anything . . . They're never going to solve waiting to get into Park City," he said.