Record editorial: Roadblocks hamper push for Kimball Junction traffic feedback
As anybody who has driven into or out of Park City on S.R. 224 during rush hour can attest, traffic congestion in Kimball Junction is a nightmare, one Summit County officials have said is a top priority to fix.
Alleviating the backups would make it easier for the thousands of workers commuting from the Salt Lake Valley to get into town. It would offer residents better access to the many restaurants and shops Kimball Junction offers. It would help the county achieve its stated aim of making the neighborhood more cohesive.
The good news: Summit County and the Utah Department of Transportation are studying traffic in Kimball Junction, and are in the process of seeking the public’s input about how to fix the problem.
The bad news: The primary method they are using to solicit the feedback is woefully deficient.
The officials are asking residents to complete an online survey on four proposed solutions, with elements ranging from adding new frontage roads to constructing underpasses that would allow drivers to bypass traffic lights. The survey introduction indicates it can be completed in 10 minutes. Maybe that’s true for residents with a degree in transportation engineering, or perhaps even for those who frequent public meetings and have experience poring over dense planning documents.
For everyone else, completing the survey could take the better part of an afternoon. It is filled with terms like “half-diamond interchange,” “braided ramp concept” and “grade-separated intersections.” The descriptions of each option are complicated and difficult to parse. Visualizing the alternatives is a stretch even with the included images.
Understanding the survey is not altogether impossible. With focus, dedication and an hour to spare (and perhaps a glass of wine), most residents can likely decipher it well enough to offer semi-informed feedback. But the barrier to entry ought not be that high. How many would-be participants opened the survey but bailed after a few paragraphs, or simply hurried through the form based on first impressions rather than providing well-formed opinions?
The problems transportation officials are hoping to address are complicated. The solutions will be, too. It’s the nature of the business. The goal of any public outreach campaign like this should be making the information accessible to the average citizen without losing the nuance that is so crucial to a successful outcome.
Walking that tightrope is a tough task, to be sure. But for a topic this important — important enough that officials believe studying it warrants spending $350,000 of taxpayer money — getting it right is essential.
The window for people to take this survey is scheduled to close Friday, meaning there’s not time for officials to improve the process in this round of public input.
But they should rectify the problem the next time they solicit feedback. Residents who want to have a say in what happens in their community, as well as the commuters who may one day utilize whichever alternative is ultimately selected in Kimball Junction, will certainly thank them.
The survey, in addition to related documents, can be viewed at kimballjunctionareaplan.com.
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