Tunnels deemed ‘easy’ but pricey | ParkRecord.com

Tunnels deemed ‘easy’ but pricey

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Parkites already get squeamish about traffic when they hear about a developer wanting to build a road in the neighborhood.

Some might become downright disgusted with the potential of unprecedented road connections, perhaps through tunnels, between Park City and the Cottonwood canyons. Those are being discussed as possibilities as a landmark summit about the future of Utah skiing approaches.

There are few details being publicized in Park City but it appears that the summit will contemplate ways to connect Park City’s three mountain resorts with the four in the Cottonwood canyons, long a vision of tourism promoters as a way to draw more people to Utah.

Eric DeHaan, the Park City engineer, says he has not been briefed about the details but envisions that there are only a few places tunnels could be built between Park City and the Cottonwoods. Known for his blunt assessments, DeHaan, the longtime city engineer, describes two tunnel routes with mouths in Park City.

One, he says, could connect Park City to Big Cottonwood Canyon, with a mouth at S.R. 224 near Hotel Park City. DeHaan says the Spiro Tunnel, which dates to the city’s mining era, stretches toward Big Cottonwood Canyon and is located near where he envisions a modern-day tunnel possibly being built.

The Silver Star arts and condominium project now sits at the mouth of the Spiro Tunnel.

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DeHaan acknowledges that there are numerous difficulties with a connection at that spot, including potential impacts on the nearby Park City Golf Course.

The other tunnel route he describes would run from Big Cottonwood Canyon to Daly Avenue, on the southern end of Old Town. There, neighbors would likely oppose such a project.

DeHaan says modern-day technology allows such a tunnel between Park City and the Cottonwoods but he doubts that leaders will be willing to fund the work.

"It’s easy to do. It’s impossible to pay for it in a cost-effective basis," DeHaan says, calling the idea an "ill-advised mega-project" and adding, "The technology is there. What’s not there is the political will to come up with all of the money."

DeHaan expects that property would need to be purchased or otherwise secured and water rights would need to be resolved before construction. Negotiations like those sometimes take years and agreements are sometimes elusive.

He envisions politicians choosing to spend money on other items, like Utah schools and welfare programs, if public dollars are requested.

"I don’t think any of those ideas have merit given the social issues," he says.

DeHaan says that connections between the resorts in the Cottonwood Canyons and the Park City area are more easily done through ski lifts, perhaps from Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon to Park City Mountain Resort or The Canyons.

Locally, the pending discussions will likely be of great interest to lots of people and business sectors.

Some people in Old Town are frustrated with the traffic and would likely be leery of all-year road access, potentially via Guardsman Pass, from the Cottonwood Canyons.

For years, City Hall, meanwhile, has fought against expanding road access to the city beyond the two all-year entryways, S.R. 224 and S.R. 248.

Officials, for instance, were worried about a road between U.S. 40 and Park City, resulting in an agreement requiring a gate stopping everyday traffic from driving from the highway through what became Deer Crest and then into Park City. More recently there have been disputes about all-year access along S.R. 224 into Park City from Brighton Estates, a neighborhood south of Park City.

Park City’s expanding tourism industry, though, will probably be intrigued.

Businesspeople may be interested in the prospects of Utah becoming more competitive with other ski destinations. That could boost business to the diverse sectors of the economy influenced by the ski industry, like construction and lodging.