Transportation: Highways to Heaven |

Transportation: Highways to Heaven

Traffic congestion in Park City is a regular occurrence, particularly in the winter months when tourists arrive en masse.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

This story is found in the 2019 edition of Milepost.

There are only so many cars that the two highways entering Park City can handle. At times, they host two long traffic jams. Throw in a special event, rush hour, blizzard, or all three, and it gets ugly. The roads must roll, and sometimes they don’t.

S.R. 224 from Kimball Junction was designed to handle 35,000 vehicles per day, but at peak usage it sees nearly 7,000 more than that, and growing at 3.5 percent per year. The Utah Department of Transportation projects that the road will reach failure in just four years.

To the east, S.R. 248 serves workers, skiers and commuters coming from U.S. 40. Currently it takes morning commuters almost 10 minutes to travel the 3.1 miles from the U.S. 40 junction. UDOT has proposed rebuilding the highway with five full lanes at a cost of around $60 million, but pushback from local government and residents has stalled the planning process.

It’s not easy to change people’s behavior. Private cars are convenient, of course. Jeff Jones, Summit County’s economic development director says thawt an average area home generates 10 trips a day by car, with shopping as the number one reason. “People buy groceries once a day now,” he says, “instead of once a week. You need to pick your poison. If you want people in the community, then there’s an increase in trips.”

The solutions are complex, but all point towards increased public transportation. Summit County Councilman Doug Clyde says, “We need more asphalt for transit, not for cars. We need to capture trips before they get into town.” Buses and private shuttles are being increasingly utilized.

Park City has adopted a “transit first” policy, according to Park City Manager Diane Foster. “It’s a big deal, if you mean it,” she says. “If all our visitors brought their own cars, we’d have 15,000 more here.” Park City has also started offering “micro-transit,” similar to the current Dial A Ride system. And in Old Town, cars jam up Main Street, Swede Alley and any connecting roads during peak periods, meaning no one can get where they need to go. An Old Town transportation study is currently underway that will make recommendations.

“It’s difficult making people give up their cars,” says Deer Valley Resort’s Todd Shallen. But once it becomes inconvenient they will have to find alternatives. The app-based, complimentary Canyons Village Connect is one new ski season alternative offering guests, owners and employees a ride around their area. The Canyons Village Management Association sponsored the app, and also came up with $5.5 million towards the new Ecker Hill park and ride lot, with 200 spaces designated for their own employees. But those spots remain mostly unused.

It seems everyone knows what has to happen, but it will take some leadership and changes in behavior to get from here, to there.

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