The Park Record Editorial August 6-8, 2008
Think of it as two planned snowstorms, like the white-knuckle, blinding, only-a-fool-would-go-out-on-a-night-like-this kind of blizzards we experienced last winter.
This Saturday beginning at 4 p.m. through 4 p.m. Sunday, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) will shut down westbound Interstate 80 between Lambs Canyon and Mountain Dell to replace the bridges over the freeway. Next Saturday they will close the eastbound side from 7 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
The closures have the potential to wreck havoc with traffic from San Francisco to Teaneck, New Jersey, well, at least from our neck of the woods to Salt Lake City, which is a big deal among Parkites who like to cruise down to the big city on the weekends and for the crowds of city dwellers who like to chill in the mountains when the work week ends.
Either way you travel, the two weekend closures of the interstate could be a major inconvenience unless, of course, you plan ahead.
UDOT has done its best to get the word out there are signs up and down U.S. 40, back and forth on I-80, on the Internet and in the newspapers. The Park City Chamber Bureau has also tried to mitigate the inconvenience and local businesses are trying to turn the highway closures into an excuse for day-trippers to spend the night.
But it will really be up to Summit and Salt Lake County residents to adjust their schedules and stay off that stretch of the road until the bridges are in place.
Many have asked whether a complete shut down is necessary and whether it would have been better to divert a lane or two over to the other side of the highway. But according to UDOT, the cost of placing barriers and policing the shift would have been more expensive and more time-consuming than just closing it down.
Judging by the bridge replacements that have already taken place in Salt Lake City, UDOT’s aggressive approach has been successful. Several of the interstate bridges in Salt Lake City have already been completed. And, so far, the contractors have been sticking to their schedule.
Motorists across the country got a rude wake up call last year when a major highway bridge collapsed in Minneapolis killing 13 and injuring 145 people. Engineers had been warning about the deteriorating state of the interstates but few listened until the bridge gave way. UDOT is making the right move, even though it will likely be disruptive to lots of travelers.
Instead of burning up fuel on an expensive detour or finding yourself in a long line of impatient drivers, take a deep breath of fresh mountain air and try to stay off the highway for the next two weekends.
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In an intriguing sidebar to the overall Park City Planning Commission talks about a proposed project at Park City Mountain Resort, the developer recently mentioned a future Winter Olympics in the context of the project.