Panelists weigh in on the Mountain Accord
When Rich Wyman first heard about the Mountain Accord initiative, he said he was really looking forward to what it could potentially deliver.
"I thought this would be a great vehicle to make wildlife crossings become a reality over the highways and make our wildlife and traffic safer," said Wyman, a long-time Park City activist for affordable housing and responsible growth. "But the more I’ve gone to the meetings, the more I’ve talked with people about it and the more I’ve thought about it, I’m starting to get a little scared."
The Mountain Accord is a collaborative initiative involving Salt Lake, Summit, and Wasatch counties and is aimed at addressing issues, such as the environment, recreation, transportation, and the economy.
"I’m starting to think the whole point of the Mountain Accord idea is to connect us (Park City) to Sandy," Wyman said. "At what point do we become another Sandy? And I think the Mountain Accord might escalate that.
"How do we protect Park City’s interest as the Accord seems to be snowballing?" Wyman asked. "We have no money for schools, but we have money to blast through mountains to build trains? How do we stay in the driver seat?"
Wyman’s questions and comments were part of a broader panel discussion on Thursday, hosted by the Park City Project for Deeper Understanding, focusing on: "Sustainability and Transformation: What is the Future of Summit County?" The discussion touched on various topics, including the future of transportation and transit as it relates to the Mountain Accord.
Wyman’s comments came just days after the release of Mountain Accord’s blueprint for the Central Wasatch region that includes ideas for transit improvements in the Little Cottonwood Canyon and Park City area corridor.
According to Mountain Accord’s website, some of the possible alternatives are: a light rail transit up Little Cottonwood Canyon to the Park City area, including tunnel connections between Alta, Big Cottonwood Canyon and Park City; a rapid transit bus up Little Cottonwood Canyon to the Park City area; a rapid transit bus or light rail, but with an aerial rather than rail or in tunnel connection; and transportation alternatives, such as auto disincentives and incentives for transit.
Rory Murphy, a Park City area developer and former Park City planning commissioner, said he’s always "loved the thought of a lift-served connection to Cottonwood."
But, he added, he believes the Mountain Accord proposal "is more than ludicrous."
"The cost of it and the sheer impact and the benefit of it, I think, is minimal at best," Murphy said during the discussion. "And it has to come out somewhere. It will probably come out in one of Vail’s resorts or somewhere on the west side of Park City and I don’t see any street that could handle this kind of thing.
"I just think it is the most short-sighted, ill conceived idea," he added.
Mike Goar, general manager of Canyons Resort, said in talking about transportation "the ball we should really have our eye on is: Kimball Junction, State Roads 224 and 228, and, to a degree, Interstate 80.
"Those are our transportation issues today and tomorrow and that should be our focus," Goar said. "And I don’t know that Mountain Accord is dealing with those issues directly.
"Or let me say it another way, they are not dealing with those issues directly," he added.
Summit County Councilman Roger Armstrong, who served on Thursday’s panel, said he believes "the Mountain Accord could provide some benefits, in terms of protecting economics, protecting the environment, and protecting recreation.
"That part of the Mountain Accord I don’t really have a problem with," Armstrong said. "Even the transportation side of the Accord had promise, but I think it was handled badly."
Armstrong, who said he served on a transportation systems committee working with the Mountain Accord, said those conversations were not productive and did not result in any positive recommendations.
"I don’t feel we accomplished anything and I don’t think we handed anything meaningful to the executive board when we finished those deliberations," he said, adding his biggest concern about the initiative is the rail connection into Park City.
"I think it is bad for us," Armstrong said. "We live in a community where our business is protected. If we open that up, I believe we lose business and I believe it begs growth. And I think it creates a whole host of new problems for us and they have not been able to tell us, as a political entity, what the tangible benefits are other than you are going to get a lot of additional day skiers. I don’t think a lot of additional day skiers is what we were shooting for and want for our community."
Park City will host a Q&A and open house on the Mountain Accord on Feb. 24 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
For more information about the Mountain Accord, go to http://mountainaccord.com/.
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A major infrastructure bill that passed in the final days of the Legislature’s general session includes funding for a Kimball Junction traffic project. Officials said developers helped get the project included.