Walking route challenging
It should be simple, in theory, crossing Park Avenue outside of Albertsons: there is a pedestrian signal at the location to make it easy.
But a recent group of Parkites and conference-goers from elsewhere, like many before, found crossing the street there is challenging. The group, numbering about 40 with many of them in Park City for the pedestrian-focused conference, arrived at the crossing and prepared to cross.
"Hit it, the lights start blinking," said Mark Fenton, a pedestrian expert who led the group on a walk between Park City Mountain Resort and the Olympic Welcome Plaza, pointing out issues along the route and using the pedestrian signal on Park Avenue.
The Park Avenue crossing has long been seen by many as one of the problem areas for pedestrians and bicyclists, with drivers on busy Park Avenue frequently not yielding to people crossing.
Fenton, as he observed the midmorning traffic, talked about the pattern of the drivers. He said nearby stoplights forced the drivers into what he dubbed a "platooning" pattern, with the cars arriving at the crossing several at a time followed by a lull in the traffic. Fenton said if the pedestrian signal, which now flashes yellow, were turned into a flashing red light someday, it could be synchronized with the nearby stoplights.
Fenton, who has led similarly themed walks elsewhere in Park City, led the group on a route steps off a heavily traveled stretch of Park Avenue.
Traffic is especially bad during the ski season, as drivers heading to and from Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort converge on Park Avenue before turning onto Deer Valley Drive or Empire Avenue, depending on their resort of choice.
Meanwhile, pedestrians and bicyclists also use the route as they head to their homes, places where they are staying or businesses like Albertsons.
"I kind of look at that as the center of town," said Carol Potter, who leads the Mountain Trails Foundation and accompanied the group on the Fenton-led walk, describing that the traffic was a challenge at the Park Avenue-Empire Avenue-Deer Valley Drive intersection.
Potter said in an interview people on the walk afterward suggested removing some of the entrances to parking lots close to the intersection to make the location easier for pedestrians to navigate. They also discussed building a pedestrian-bicyclist tunnel close to the intersection, but they did not delve into the details, Potter said.
"It’s kind of one of those all-hands-on-deck corners for me," she said.
The Fenton visit comes as Park City prepares to make widespread improvements to pedestrian and bicyclist routes, using $15 million voters authorized in a 2007 bond election. Major expenditures are planned on Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard.
Officials say upgrades are expected to be made to the route the group took as well. Heinrich Deters, who is assisting City Hall’s pedestrian efforts, said the improvements to the route are scheduled for between three and five years from now. He said City Hall wants to put in an eight-foot wide pathway on the west side of Park Avenue between Kearns Boulevard and Deer Valley Drive, close to the route the group took.
He said City Hall also plans to improve the Park Avenue crossing outside Albertsons, with the work slated in 2009. Deters said details have not been finalized for the crossing improvements.
Other topics broached on the walk included operating a satellite parking lot and shuttles for skiers between the lot and Park City. A park-and-ride lot that would function similarly is planned. They also discussed expansions to the bus system, with one person talking about stepped-up routes during the 2002 Winter Olympics and the annual Sundance Film Festival.
Fenton wondered if those sorts of expansions would be successful during times of the year when Park City is not as busy.
Park City officials for years have encouraged people to choose to walk or bicycle instead of driving, saying that doing so reduces traffic, is good for the environment and promotes health.
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Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts in early June submitted a letter to the Park City Planning Commission in support of a Provo developer’s blueprints for a major project at the resort.