Public input on long-range transportation plan will drive choices | ParkRecord.com

Public input on long-range transportation plan will drive choices

County council presented with options to tackle traffic problemsAngelique McNaughton, The Park Record

Summit County officials are making significant strides toward implementing a long-range transportation plan to address traffic congestion and the expected growth during the next 25 years.

The recommendations for the Snyderville Basin’s long-range transportation plan were unveiled on Tuesday and include two options for the County Council to consider.

To cap the current traffic levels, without introducing any new vehicles on the road, public transit would need to accommodate 45 percent of all travel in 2040. Officials with LSC Transportation Consultants presented what the county would have to do to meet that goal.

If money wasn’t an issue and the county had $371 million to spend, extensive improvements in the areas of roadways, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian paths, would essentially hold the volume of vehicles in the Snyderville Basin at the current levels. The vision plan, as it was called, would generate funding as a result of the projected additional growth, according to the report.

The other option, a more feasible and fiscally conservative plan, would cost $138.5 million and would still include additional busses throughout the Snyderville Basin and busses traveling to Kamas, Oakley, Coalville and Heber in Wasatch County. It would require transit usage to be around 6 to 8 percent. This option looks at what the county could fund with the sources it already has.

"It’s really pushing to change society and it is a noble goal, but there are going to be some very big challenges. And one of them being the money," Gordon Shaw, principal consultant for LSC Transportation, said. "The dollars are more than other communities spend on transit locally. It takes capital items and there are federal funds, but there are not nearly enough so that just throws more responsibility back on the community."

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Some of the questions are: what levels of regional partnerships should be pursued and is the region willing to introduce driving disincentives, such as paid parking?

"The other part is how willing is the community to accept these things," Shaw said. "Like right now, we don’t have paid parking in the county and that is the sort of thing that will start to get them thinking about taking the bus. It is a very politically sensitive issue and it’s not an easy thing to do."

Both options take into account population projections from the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget for the county in 2040, which represent a significant increase.

In the county, an 85-percent increase in population is predicted, in effect nearly doubling the daily trips throughout the Snyderville Basin and surrounding areas.

The results of the long-range plan were met with some trepidation from County Council members and the public, who often used the words "overwhelming" and "daunting" when referring to the "transportation conundrum," as many called it.

"I think it is overwhelming to plan that far in advance and to think about all the combinations and permutations," Lola Beatlebrox, a Brown’s Canyon resident, said. "But on the other hand, I think we need to start early and I think the phased approach is probably the best approach."

County Council member David Ure said the presentation was a "sobering reality."

"It’s really unnerving if you look at the picture as a whole and I think we are going to have to tackle the problem in segments," Ure said. "But on the bright side, I think it is good to know what are facing. Once you recognize the problem, you know what the problem is."

Ure said the council plans to meet with both Wasatch County and Heber City representatives next week.

"We will not resolve this problem unless we resolve this together," Ure said. "Wasatch County would like to have a lot of development that wouldn’t necessarily benefit Park City or Summit County. So we are going to have to find a common ground with them and work on this together and not as individuals."

Park City resident Shauna Engen said she attended the meeting because of the potential impacts the plan could have on her neighborhood, Sun Peak.

"I’m very concerned about them widening S. R. 224 because of where I live," Engen said. "I don’t want more asphalt and I don’t want more cars because right now there are enough. I do like how they are staying away from adding more lanes because with Vail coming in, who knows what is going to happen to where I live."

Mark Cohen, a Silver Summit resident, said his main concern is "nothing being able to move in town" and the resulting effect it could have on tourists.

"Vail’s expansion is great and we are going to bring a lot of people here, but then they will get stuck in traffic and not want to come back," Cohen said. "And that is a big concern for me. I would like to see more people taking public transportation and leaving their cars at home. We won’t get our tourists to do it, but maybe start with our resort workers. Hit people where it hurts and give them some incentives to leave their cars. Whatever it is going to take to get people out of their cars and to get to their destination via public transportation."

Vail’s proposed gondola connection has raised additional concerns among residents about the potential influx of new skiers to the area. But, Summit County Engineer Leslie Crawford said it doesn’t affect what the county is doing with the transportation plan.

"One thing we will be doing is updating the plan annually, so that any changes that come from the Vail acquisition or any additional connections, we’ll definitely address those changes," she said.

Crawford acknowledged the challenges ahead for the county regarding its transportation system.

"It’s a hard situation because we don’t necessarily know which comes first, the chicken or the egg," Crawford said. "But as of right now, we are on the right track."

Coalville resident Paula McGee said while the whole idea is overwhelming, it is important that the dialogue has begun.

"The growth is concerning when you look at those numbers you think, ‘what is going to happen to where I live’," McGee said. "But for me living in Coalville, I would be ecstatic to have that opportunity to leave my car at home."

Under the conservative plan, improvements would include:

  • Silver Summit Interchange
  • A northbound State Road 224 to westbound Interstate 80 fly-over ramp
  • Widening Silver Creek Road between US 40 and Promontory Ranch Road
  • Providing a fly-over connection between Park and Ride and westbound I-80
  • Higher frequency transit to Salt Lake City
  • New transit service between Silver Creek Junction and Park City, via US 40
  • Completion of the trail networks along S.R. 224, State Road 248 and Bonanza Drive
  • Completion of the neighborhood trail, sidewalk, and on-street facilities
  • Accommodation of bikes and pedestrians at Kimball Junction
  • Pedestrian bridges or tunnels to cross S.R. 224 and S.R. 248

The final recommendations for the long-range transportation plan are available on the Summit County homepage, http://summitcounty.org/.