Starting Friday, head underground to cross Kearns Boulevard |

Starting Friday, head underground to cross Kearns Boulevard

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Students walking from Prospector to the Park City School District campus across Kearns Boulevard on Friday morning will likely only have one choice when crossing the busy street: head underground.

Park City officials on Thursday evening are scheduled to hold a ceremony opening the pedestrian bicyclist tunnel underneath Kearns Boulevard outside the schools, seen as one of the most important upgrades in years as City Hall tries to make the community safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and others who are not driving.

The Park City Council and mayor are scheduled to participate in the ceremony, which is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. at the site. Park City School District officials are also scheduled to attend.

"This is a good accomplishment. It took a lot of people to do this. They all stepped up," said Park City Engineer Matt Cassel, the staffer who oversaw the construction of the tunnel.

The tunnel is one of the critical upgrades funded by money raised in a ballot measure to pay for pedestrian-bicyclist upgrades throughout Park City. The voters who approved the measure did so with the understanding there would be significant work outside the schools. There have long been concerns about a terrible accident involving a driver and students at the location.

The tunnel is approximately 120 feet long, 12 feet wide and 9 feet tall. It burrows 16 feet underneath Kearns Boulevard at the Comstock Drive intersection, connecting the heavily populated Prospector neighborhood with the schools. The work is priced at between $1.7 and $1.8 million.

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"I hope this is what they envisioned," Cassel said about the people who voted in favor of the ballot measure, which provided City Hall with $15 million for the upgrades.

The pedestrian-activated signal and the pedestrian road striping close to the spot of the tunnel will be removed by Thursday, Cassel said. City Hall wants people to use the tunnel once it opens instead of attempting to cross the street itself, saying the tunnel will eliminate the "conflict between pedestrians and cars."

Park City workers will maintain the ramps leading into the tunnel on the Prospector side while the Park City School District will maintain them on the side where the schools are situated, Cassel said.

The Thursday debut will come more than eight weeks later than City Hall had wanted. When construction started in mid-June, officials anticipated an opening by the third week of August, in time for the start of the school year, but delays in the utility work and handling contaminated soils added time to the construction.

Bob O’Connor, the principal of Treasure Mountain International School, one of the schools close to the tunnel, said on Monday he expects the tunnel will be popular among students enrolled in his school, McPolin Elementary School and the Learning Center.

Treasure Mountain staffers are providing information about the tunnel to student families through e mail messages and might publish a one-page flier announcing the opening, O’Connor said.

"I think it’s going to get heavy use. Students are not going to be allowed to use the street" to cross, O’Connor said, adding, "It should be much safer than crossing."

The tunnel is one of two designed for pedestrians and bicyclists under construction, and the other one, underneath Bonanza Drive, is scheduled to open later in November. Cassel said its debut is slated for the time around Thanksgiving. The ballot measure also funded the Bonanza Drive tunnel, which is located close to the Iron Horse Drive intersection. Parkites have also been worried about a traffic accident involving a bicyclist or pedestrian on Bonanza Drive.