Summit County says Main Street is the best endpoint for a bus rapid transit system |

Summit County says Main Street is the best endpoint for a bus rapid transit system

Old Town transit center, not arts and culture district, eyed for hub

Summit County’s newest proposal for a $50 million bus rapid transit project to reduce congestion on S.R. 224 is for the route to end at the Old Town transit center rather than at Park City’s proposed arts and culture district.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

Summit County officials are now advocating that a future bus rapid transit system they see as foundational to traffic-reduction efforts end its run at Main Street rather than Park City’s proposed arts and culture district.

The new alignment, which county councilors supported unanimously Wednesday, works with Park City’s downsized vision for the proposed district, said Park City Councilor Tim Henney.

The roughly $50 million bus rapid transit project would install dedicated public transit lanes on both sides of S.R. 224 from Kimball Junction to Kearns Boulevard, allowing express buses to run past traffic with few stops. The route would merge into regular traffic on Deer Valley Drive before terminating at the Old Town transit center.

The system could also include mechanisms to further enhance the buses’ speed relative to traffic, like specially timed traffic lights or bridges or tunnels to bypass intersections, officials said, though that would be costly.

Caroline Rodriguez, the county’s regional transportation planning director, told the council that level of specific design work was yet to come.

Identifying the Old Town transit center as an end-point is a notable diversion from the previous plan, which included a transit hub at Park City’s proposed arts and culture development at the intersection of Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive.

The issue of where to end the proposed bus rapid transit system had proven contentious in meetings between Park City and Summit County officials. The two governments officially split transit operations in July, with the county spinning off its own High Valley Transit District. Rodriguez is also the general manager of the district.

Alex Roy, a Park City senior transportation planner, said the city was on board with the adjustment and that the City Council would discuss it in coming weeks. Henney said the change reflects the city’s refined plan for the arts and culture district, a concept that envisions affordable housing, artists’ spaces and headquarters for the Sundance Institute and Kimball Art Center — plus a transit and parking component — on about 5 acres of land.

“When we looked at the arts and culture district initially, it had more of what was considered a transit center or a transit hub, and we’ve really re-envisioned that and realized in order to have a greater benefit to the overall system, putting a transit center there would not benefit the overall system,” Henney said. “Once we downsized the transit component to the arts and culture district, it then made more sense to not have that be the terminus for (bus rapid transit).”

The county is in the process of once again applying for a sizable federal grant to help pay for bus rapid transit. Those grants in the past have been capped at $25 million. The County Council was asked to vote on the changed alignment to be used in the application.

As envisioned in material Rodriguez presented to the council, the system would cover 7.1 miles between Kimball Junction and the Old Town transit center, operating in its own 12-foot-wide lane along much of S.R. 224. It would run briefly in regular traffic between the Kimball Junction transit center and Olympic Parkway, and once again as it heads south of Kearns Boulevard and along Deer Valley Drive.

Henney identified heavy traffic on Deer Valley Drive as one of the potential issues with the Old Town transit center site for a bus rapid transit node.

Rodriguez told the County Council that adding dedicated traffic lanes on Deer Valley Drive would only shave seconds off an average trip and the added cost would make the project less economically desirable for federal grant evaluators.

County councilors said they’d received some negative feedback from constituents who questioned the project’s cost and what it could accomplish.

Armstrong asked whether the funding for this project would come out of money that could be spent on traffic solutions to help fix Kimball Junction itself.

Rodriguez indicated the grant funding the county was seeking was limited for transit-only uses.

While she agreed with Armstrong’s assertion that the system wouldn’t be “a silver bullet” for traffic issues on S.R. 224, she indicated it would be a significant improvement.

“As a solution, it goes farther than any other option we have to mitigate the traffic congestion and growth in traffic congestion that we absolutely will see,” she said.

Councilor Doug Clyde said the nature of the area’s ski-resort based economy means traffic will likely always be an issue.

“You cannot manage those peaks. They are not manageable,” he said of powder day traffic. “… On huge days the system is always going to be taxed beyond its capability. It’s kind of an Easter Sunday problem, right? You can’t build the church for Easter Sunday.”

Rodriguez said the bus rapid transit system could best be understood as the backbone of the county’s overall transit system, which also features on-demand microtransit service that has grown in three months since its launch to provide hundreds of daily rides.

She indicated that more detailed design work for the bus rapid transit system could occur later this year.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.