Commuters weather traffic jams to attend weekend events
State Roads 224 and 248 were backed up for miles
As thousands of Utahns traveled to Park City on Saturday to participate in the Womens March on Main, several hundred missed the historic event because they were stuck in traffic.
Inbound traffic on State Roads 224 and 248 inched through the city, with motorists trapped for extended periods in bumper-to-bumper traffic for trips that would normally take a few minutes. Nearly an hour after the march began, people were still walking toward Main Street holding protest signs.
Organizers estimate that around 7,000 people attended the event that was billed as a march to support human rights in a sign of solidarity with other protests across the nation. But Cindy Levine, one of the events organizers, said a significant number of people didnt make it.
As the opening weekend of the Sundance Film Festival coincided with one of the largest demonstrations to ever take place in Park City, traffic slowed to a crawl from Kimball Junction to Quinns Junction, and throughout the city. Levine said she arrived in Old Town in Park City at around 6:30 a.m. that morning.
I was trying so hard to tell people whenever I had the opportunity to plan an hour to two hours out, Levine said. And with the snow on top of that, it looks like hundreds of people couldnt make it from Salt Lake and the surrounding areas. But there was nothing we could do about the weather and people understood that.
Park City and Summit County officials had anticipated the busy weekend and were encouraging residents to take advantage of the citys free transit system. Free parking was also available at the Richardson Flat lot close to Quinns Junction. It operated as a park-and-ride lot for both festival goers and marchers with bus service through Monday.
Alfred Knotts, Park Citys transportation planning manager, estimated more than 500 vehicles used the parking lot on Saturday. He added, All indications show that the busses were also heavily utilized to the point where we were at capacity.
It was a very trying day. I wouldnt say we came out unscathed, but all-in-all we managed it to the extent we possibly could, Knotts said. The system is overloaded, but the upside is things were flowing. We didnt have total gridlock like we did during the Carmageddon situation a couple years ago.
We did the best job we possibly could and I think the community understood that, he said.
At around 8:15 a.m. on Saturday, eastbound traffic on U.S. 40 was backed up to the Silver Summit area, nearly three miles from the Quinns Junction exit, as commuters tried to reach Park Citys downtown area for The Womens March on Main, which began at 9 a.m. Lt. Andrew Wright, with the Summit County Sheriffs Office, said the weather and the festival added to the delays.
Obviously, it created some jams, Wright said. With everyone trying to funnel into the Park City area using two inlets, it creates all sorts of traffic delays and I think there were probably some frustrated people. But it is part of the nature of the beast. When thousands of people are coming in, I dont think our infrastructure is able to deal with that.
Wright said he received reports that traffic jams on State Road 224 reached as far the Jeremy Ranch exit on Interstate 80. However, he said the traffic jams did not impact law enforcements ability to provide services, adding it may have slowed it down some, though.
Deanna Rhodes, the traffic coordinator for the protest, helped privately coordinate rides for marches from the Park City Film Studio parking lot. She ended up missing the march.
I was at the Film Studio lot and the traffic definitely made it challenging, but if people came we got them to the march, Rhodes said. We got as many people on that last bus that came through, probably more than we should have, to make sure they could be a part of it, even if it was just the tail end.
Rhodes said one bus of marchers traveling from the Salt Lake City area was delayed on Interstate 80 when UDOT put its chains-and-4 wheel drive-only restrictions into effect.
They had to pull over and put chains on and then they called me when they were stuck in Kimball Junction traffic at around 9:15 a.m., Rhodes said. I told them to try and get to Park City and it was just great because they were in such great spirits.
John Gleason, a public information officer with the Utah Department of Transportation, said UDOTs road crews were slightly behind on clearing the roads because of the congestion on Interstate 80. He said the snow plows were running nearly an hour behind.
The big issue for us was trying to keep the canyons safe and clear as much as possible for people that were traveling from Salt Lake into Park City, Gleason said. There were a number of additional vehicles on the road and anytime you have slide offs or additional traffic our plows can get stuck in that congestion.
Gleason said it has been an extremely busy winter already for our crews, especially in the canyon areas.
Our road crews have been out there working around the clock to ensure the safety of everyone, Gleason said. But, it can be a challenge when you do have traffic and weather to contend with, like we did this weekend.
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Starting Friday, fires and charcoal grilling will only be allowed in improved fire pits or grills on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.