Summit County Council told S.R. 224 may fail by 2024 without improvements
The word gridlock was invented to describe the traffic phenomenon in New York City when people became stuck in the middle of intersections as lights changed, bringing the city to a standstill.
That’s according to the word’s inventor, a former New York City traffic commissioner known as “Gridlock Sam.”
While Summit County doesn’t have New York’s population and certainly isn’t on a grid system, it still has a major traffic problem, and it just keeps growing.
The term was brought up in Wednesday’s Summit County Council meeting when Councilor Glenn Wright asked a traffic engineer at what point the traffic trying to access the area’s ski resorts will get so bad, cars will have no place to go.
“Right now, our analysis is showing 2024,” transportation engineer Jeremy Searle responded.
The engineer was contracted by the Canyons Village Management Association to solidify traffic-mitigation benchmarks the ski resort base area is expected to hit according to its development agreement.
CVMA is hitting its targets — surpassing them, actually — and recommended adopting more stringent ones. But with commuters to Canyons Village being only one piece in an overall traffic picture, the road will fail in five years if no improvements are made, even if there is no more growth at the base area, the engineer said.
And widening S.R. 224 to seven lanes from its current five, as the engineer’s report recommends, would only buy six more years, until 2030.
That fact is nothing new, as the study notes the 2009 Snyderville Basin Transportation Master Plan came to the same conclusion.
Searle said the rule of thumb is that a five-lane road can handle about 35,000 vehicles per day. During peak times, S.R. 224 has more than 42,000 vehicles per day, and it’s grown at an average of 3.5 percent annually over the last four years.
To the County Council, the question isn’t what to do about it, it’s how to get it done.
There was consensus among the elected officials that the solution is to, as Councilor Chris Robinson put it, “get people out of cars.”
The county and CVMA have worked together on that, but the effort has been met with minimal success. In 2018, CVMA contributed about $5.5 million toward the Ecker Hill park-and-ride and the effort to remake Kilby Road. Canyons Village was then granted 100 dedicated spots in the park-and-ride for employees. That level was to be upped to 200 spots this year, Council Chair Roger Armstrong said.
But those spots are mostly sitting unused, Armstrong said, and the Council asked CVMA to help push people toward transit.
“Seven lanes on 224, I’m sorry, is not the solution,” he said. “Until major employers are willing to step up and push people toward transit, this is not going to work.”
He asked about suggesting customers forego renting a car in the reservation process. That’s something CVMA is doing and is planning to expand, said Brian Madacsi, the association’s executive director.
Armstrong said the proliferation of hotel shuttles around town is a positive sign, as it takes cars off the roads, but he asked CVMA to do more.
Various ideas have been floated for mitigating congestion, including a light-rail line or, perhaps more feasibly, a bus-rapid-transit system.
The engineer’s report found that a dedicated lane might help things, but the situation is expected to worsen to the point the lane might have to be repurposed as a general travel lane.
That prompted Wright to ask how bad the road would have to get to push people onto transit.
Searle responded he estimates that level to be a “level-of-service” E or F, both classified as failing grades. Those designations correspond to delays longer than 55 seconds at intersections with poor or unacceptable traffic progression, according to the report.
Even with the full list of improvements in the area, including a seven-lane buildout on S.R. 224, two northbound left-turn lanes into Canyons Village and three eastbound left-turn lanes from the resort at the S.R. 224/Canyons Resort Drive intersection would achieve loss-of-service level E in 2030.
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