Tom Clyde: Success sucks
More Dogs on Main
Park Record columnist
Back in the day, community decisions seemed easier. The numbers weren’t so big (though the City’s budget was proportionately smaller), and the resources didn’t seem so finite. The population was small enough that while nothing happened without a good fight, there was a general consensus of what we wanted as a future. Now, it feels like everything is more complicated. We’re out of land. The prices are insanely high, it’s less clear that there is a shared vision of the future. And the problems are more difficult.
I’ve consumed barrels of ink in this space complaining about the conditions on State Road 248. The road needs to be four lanes all the way to Park Avenue, and there is plenty of width there to re-stripe it as four lanes. But we don’t just restripe things. It has to be built to UDOT specifications, and that requires a break-down lane in addition to the traffic lanes. If we do that, widening the road becomes a lot more complicated than $500 in paint. The problem, of course, is that without a breakdown lane, if a car broke down on 248, we would have a traffic jam. Well, that’s certainly not a problem now . . .
So UDOT is doing an Environmental Impact Study on widening the road to make four lanes with proper breakdown lanes. It means ripping deeper into the mountain, filling the wetlands on the downslope side, and generally escalating the project from $500 in paint to restripe the existing pavement, to a year-long disruption while they completely re-build a road that has been under some form of reconstruction continuously for the last 30 years.
The EIS process requires the UDOT to look at alternatives. Not just alternatives like restriping, but alternate routes, alternate designs (though nobody was dumb enough to recommend a double-decker road), and also the alternative of doing nothing. The do-nothing alternative eliminates all the negative consequences of the construction project — and magnifies all the negative consequences of a failed road system.
Park City people swoon with the fantods over the sight of a car idling in a parking lot. Somehow 2,000 cars idling in the morning traffic jam on 248 is different. But the do-nothing option will make that worse, with implications for air quality, public safety as traffic backs up on US 40, and so on. So doing nothing might be worse than doing something. The EIS process is intended to figure out the environmental consequences of all the options, and then guide a decision. Environmental consequences don’t control the decision, but they are supposed to be on par with cost, engineering feasibility, and the success in meeting the needs of the project.
One of the alternatives in the planning process is building a new bus-only road adjacent to the Rail Trail between the little-used parking lot at Richardson Flat and Bonanza Drive or somewhere in that area. Another option is widening 248 to four lanes, but then limiting two of those to buses only. While that makes the buses able to move from the satellite lot to town efficiently, it seems to make the rest of traffic even worse by reducing capacity on the road. Which points to the Rail Trail option.
For the people whose houses back up to the Rail Trail, that is a terrible option. For the people trying to get to work in the morning, it might make the Richardson Flat lot look like a viable option, which it most definitely isn’t now. The Rail Trail right of way is pretty wide through there, and presumably a bus-only roadway doesn’t need to have a break-down lane. It might even be a single lane with the bus drivers coordinating who is coming and going through the one-lane corridor, like they did when there were actual trains running on the rail trail. It frankly makes a lot of sense. Unless you live there.
It’s not what the immediate neighbors would ask for. I’ve been through it when the state widened and paved a former Jeep trail through my property to make a very noisy highway. It really changed the character of our property. I fought it for several years, knowing that I would ultimately lose. I used to hear deer munching the landscaping in the yard. Now I hear motorcycles roaring up the canyon, and the helicopters coming to scrape them off the pavement every weekend.
The problem is that Park City needs several thousand people a day to function, whether it’s the ski resorts, the City Water Department, or your favorite restaurant. Those people can’t afford to live in town. If you want water to come out of your $1,000 Dornbracht showerhead, the people running the waterworks need to get to work.
Success sometimes sucks.
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.