Sundance traffic may have become an Olympic-sized problem for Park City |

Sundance traffic may have become an Olympic-sized problem for Park City

Traffic backs up on Kearns Boulevard at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, the opening day of the Sundance Film Festival.
Jay Hamburger/Park Record

The traffic in Park City during the Sundance Film Festival has long been awful, particularly during the jammed opening weekend.

And the backups may have become an Olympic-sized problem for City Hall.

Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council on Wednesday held a discussion with Sundance officials as part of an annual review of the festival operations. Traffic was a key point on Wednesday as City Hall, festival organizers, transportation companies and Old Town residents continue talks about measures that could be taken to reduce the amount of traffic in the neighborhood.

One possibility that was mentioned was crafting a plan for Old Town during Sundance that would be modeled in some fashion after the restrictions City Hall instituted during the 2002 Winter Olympics. The restrictions during the Olympics were especially tight as Park City officials and the Olympic organizing committee took dramatic steps to guard against neighborhoods being overrun by spectators seeking parking spots close to the competition venues or Main Street.

The Olympic plan relied on an access-pass system that covered Old Town as well as the neighborhoods surrounding the competition venues at Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort. Officials posted checkpoints and access passes were needed to clear a checkpoint.

The Old Town access passes during the Olympics, the most relevant to the current talks about Sundance, were needed from 8th Street south and from Park Avenue west, including streets like Daly Avenue and King Road on the southern reaches of Old Town. Main Street itself was closed to traffic during the Olympics in favor of a pedestrian-only celebration zone.

The Olympic organizers, meanwhile, created giant temporary satellite parking lots on the outskirts of Park City and employed a large fleet of buses to shuttle people from the satellite lots to the venues, another crucial step in the efforts to reduce traffic inside Park City during the Games.

The mayor and City Council at the meeting on Wednesday were not prepared to discuss the idea in any detail. It seems likely they will return to the discussions later, and the elected officials may eventually focus on the opening weekend of Sundance rather than the full 11-day run.

It is unclear whether there is an opportunity to implement such a dramatic new restriction on the roads for the film festival in 2020 since a system modeled after the one during the Olympics would require a significant amount of planning and public-relations efforts beyond the typically heavy workload required each year for Sundance.

The comments about modeling Sundance traffic restrictions on the Olympics were made as City Hall and the various interest groups are struggling to craft a traffic and transportation plan for the festival that meets the desires of residents, Sundance, the festival-goers and transportation firms.

There have long been concerns about the traffic crush overwhelming the roads during Sundance as film lovers, celebrity gawkers and an eclectic crew of others descend on Park City for one of the top film festivals on the global circuit.

Steps have been taken like expanding transit opportunities and increasing parking prices — both seen as traffic-fighting measures — but the concerns have continued to mount as Sundance has grown.

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