Tom Clyde: A problem too simple for Park City to solve
I made a pledge to quit ranting about the traffic on S.R. 248. It wasn’t making any difference. The problem could be significantly mitigated with about $500 in paint to re-stripe two lanes going into town. It might be solved for even less with a sign that said “FORM TWO LANES” so that the center left turn lane (from which there are no left turns) became a traffic lane. People would figure it out. Maybe. They seem completely baffled by the merge.
I’m resigned to the reality that it will take longer to get from Quinns to Comstock than it took to drive 30 miles from my house to Quinns. That 2 mph creep into town has become a sort of meditative period. I spend it listening to podcasts or music. If there’s a positive side to the Trump administration, it’s a great distraction from traffic problems.
The city is determined not to widen the road because cars are seen as the problem. Anybody trying to park at the ski resorts this winter would have to agree. But non-car solutions aren’t all that easily implemented. That’s a cultural change, not a change in traffic patterns. Changing the fundamental transportation system of the American West, which has existed from the days when everybody rode their own horse, is a little more complicated. Deep down, culturally, we are not bus people.
The city has hired a consultant to study the idea of a park-and-ride lot that would intercept the traffic on 248 and U.S. 40 somewhere in the Quinns Junction area. The idea is that people would park their cars out yonder and stand in the cold to wait for a bus for the last leg of their trip.
It’s presented as a new idea, but there already is a 750-car parking lot at Richardson Flat. The snow is plowed, the lights are on all night, and nobody parks there. It was built about 10 years ago, primarily as a parking lot for the construction workers on the Montage Hotel project. But aside from a few special events (it worked pretty well for Sundance), the lot is empty. Mostly, it doesn’t work because there isn’t a bus to transfer to. If somebody decided to do the right thing, and park at Richardson Flat, they are more likely to be eaten by coyotes than get on a bus.
It’s absolutely in the wrong place. No matter where you are coming from, you can’t get there. That could be solved. Kamas traffic could turn from 248 to what is affectionately known as the “old dump road,” and enter the Richardson lot from that direction. That would need Wasatch County to plow the road more diligently, and probably a light at the Browns Canyon intersection. That’s reaching the point of needing one anyway with the amount of cross traffic from all the new condos there. Heber traffic would need an off-ramp from Highway 40 on to the old dump road that would feed directly into the lot. To get the buses into town, there would have to be a light where the dump road connects to 248 at the merge. So that’s possible, but not cheap, and the lot is still in a wasteland of toxic tailings.
That solution is far too simple for Park City. They have their eye on 70 acres owned by UDOT east of Highway 40, on either side of 248. That’s a better location, and there are utilities nearby that would allow construction of a restroom building. A coffee shop/convenience store would help. If you could use the transfer from the bus to your car at the end of the day as an opportunity to pick up a quart of milk or tank of gas, it begins to work. There’s access to the rail trail, and Councilman Steve Joyce floated the idea of being able to pick up e-bikes there instead of the bus and ride into town.
It seems plausible, but to find out if it will work, the City has hired a consultant for a jaw-dropping $420,000. I assumed that was a misprint. But I dug out the actual Council meeting minutes, and the contract amount is $418,945. For the study. I’d guess the actual parking lot could be built for $418,946. I’m clearly in the wrong line of work.
The lot needs to be directly accessible from 248 and 40. It needs civilization in the form of restrooms, enclosed bus shelters, and security so your car isn’t stripped while parked out in the wilderness. It needs frequent, non-stop buses to both ski areas. To really class it up, the adjoining land needs to be zoned to allow a convenience store, gas station, coffee shop, and maybe child care so dropping the kids off is part of the transition.
You got that for the price of the paper. Keep the change.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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Buses, trains and gondolas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but they make up the transit alternatives for the mountain transportation system the Central Wasatch Commission is trying to create, mostly in the Cottonwood canyons.