Guest editorial: A gondola could help mitigate Park City’s traffic problem
One of the problems facing the Park City area is traffic on State Routes 224 and 248. During ski season, some fraction of this traffic can be attributed to skiers headed to PCMR, Canyons and Deer Valley base areas from west of Kimball Junction including Salt Lake City visitors. How big a fraction is a function of the day of the week, current ski conditions and many other variables. However, taking some part of this ski traffic off of Routes 224 and/or 248 would improve traffic flow.
Among proposals I have heard to address traffic are satellite parking areas, increased bus service and/or bus lanes, even a light rail proposal. I suggest an alternative option, a gondola/tram from a base/parking area west of Kimball Junction to the west side of Canyons ski area.
I envision the bottom of the gondola/tram at a base/parking area somewhere between Ecker Hill Middle School and the Tanger Outlets. The gondola/tram would terminate at a convenient point on the west side of Canyons, perhaps somewhere along the Upper or Lower Boa trail. I would propose the gondola/tram include a mid station at the Utah Olympic Park (UOP) facility which is approximately halfway along the path. Based on a quick look at a map, this would make the gondola/tram about twice the length of the Quicksilver gondola recently installed between PCMR and Canyons.
The mid station at UOP would increase ridership at certain times and would provide a welcome traffic mitigation solution during major events at the UOP. If Salt Lake City were to be awarded a future winter olympics, the tram/gondola would assume even greater importance. It might even enhance the viability of a bid.
Of course, this idea doesn’t provide any relief for non ski related traffic such as experienced during Sundance. However, bus service from the base/parking area could aid with that.
What about cost? A quick internet search provided an estimate of $3-12 million per mile for gondola construction, but Vail Resorts should be able to provide accurate estimate information based on their recent experience on similar terrain. Just for comparison, the same article quoted $36 million per mile for light rail construction.
Where would the money come from? Several entities might have an interest in seeing this project completed; Vail Resorts, UOP and state organizations associated with Olympic facilities, Park City and Summit County. Since this proposal would largely benefit Vail Resorts and the UOP, those organizations would need to bear the majority of the cost of construction. However, given the traffic benefits that would be possible, it would be in the interest of Summit County and Park City to cooperate and possibly assist in infrastructure improvements near the base of the proposed gondola/tram and coordinate public transit with the proposed base/parking area.
I can think of many pros and cons to this proposal, but editorial space limitations prevent their discussion here. However, I do think this is one proposal that would actually get some Canyons and PCMR bound skiers from the west out of their cars before they hit Routes 224/248. Is this a perfect solution to the traffic on Routes 224 and 248? Of course not. No single proposed solution will be. But perhaps it is an option that could be considered to reduce the impact of PCMR and Canyons skiers on traffic.
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Members of the Historic Park City Alliance write in a letter to the editor that early December is the perfect time for Parkites to experience the “old town feel” of Main Street.