Amy Roberts: 248 Other Options for S.R. 248
Red Card Roberts
Park Record columnist
Over the past decade or so, in every local election, those with names on the ballot cite their top issues as: Traffic, affordable housing, and environmental impact. They might be prioritized in a different order, and solutions vary a bit, but no one hoping for an office at City Hall claims they’ll focus on much else. At least not enough to make it a campaign platform.
Despite the city’s recent efforts to mitigate traffic; including an express bus, electric bikes and price-gouged parking spots, there seems to be no decrease in the number of cars clogging the roads in and out of town. And with school back in session, the commute and congestion along State Road 248 is once again front-page news. Quite literally. Last week, there was a front-page article in this paper about concerns and options regarding the traffic along 248. A $10 million price tag was thrown out, along with the “just thinking out loud” option of turning the Rail Trail into a thoroughfare.
Fortunately, the article also stated both city and transportation officials want to hear from the public; input is welcomed. So here’s mine — expanding 248 makes as much sense as giving anyone who rents an e-bike a free gas card. It’s completely counterintuitive and counterproductive to any desire to take cars off the road. If you want fewer drivers, do not spend millions of dollars to make driving easier.
Though the idea of turning the Rail Trail into a traffic corridor is hopefully far fetched, the idea of widening S.R. 248 to accommodate traffic is not. I live in Prospector, very close to the schools, so I have a driver’s seat view of the congestion nearly every day. Fortunately for me, my commute goes the opposite way — town to Quinn’s Junction in the morning. But that doesn’t mean I don’t notice the slow-moving stream of vehicles. In fact, I’ve been paying sharp attention over the years, and in my independent traffic study, I’ve noticed a few things. First, nearly every car has only one person in it. And second, there’s an alarming ratio of Land Rovers to 16 year olds in this town.
Teenagers with luxury cars aside, the school and the city should work together before considering a costly and time-consuming road-widening project. Currently, any student with a car and $50 can park either at the high school or the nearby LDS church. Why not reserve parking for seniors only? Incentivize them to carpool with their junior or sophomore neighbors. Or for that matter, their younger sibling. I know of a family whose 17-year old drives to high school, leaving the house 20 minutes after whichever parent drives the 8th grade sister to Treasure Hill Middle School. That seems ridiculous. But so does expecting to change behavior with no reward or penalty.
It would also be far less expensive and disruptive to flex S.R. 248 a bit. The stretch from Quinn’s Junction to the high school is anywhere from four to two lanes, divided by what can only be described as a turning lane to infinity. Why not make the four-mile turning lane an actual driving lane, changing its direction to flow with traffic during peak commute times?
If easing traffic is truly a goal, at some point, penalty outweighs reward. Encouraging people to take the bus will never be as effective as penalizing them for renting a car to get here. Perhaps the city should partner with hotels and lodging companies to charge tourists for overnight parking. Sure, a tourist can rent a car at the airport, but if he or she is paying an extra $25/day to park it at a hotel or rental house, they might be more inclined to take a shuttle and use the free bus.
I’m not a traffic engineer, but common sense suggests there are a number of other solutions to our transportation problem. Making it easier to drive into town does nothing to alleviate cars on the road. When I run out of room in my closet, I don’t add on to my house; I purge and stop accumulating more junk. It would be wise for city officials to apply that same logic to traffic. After all, they campaigned on the idea.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident, and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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