Traffic solutions needed for long and short term
January 13, 2015
The most popular debate topic in Park City right now is what to do about the increasing traffic congestion.
Everyone, it seems, was either in the ‘carmagedon’ traffic jam on Dec. 29 or waiting for someone who was. There are a lot of theories about whether that particular incident was an anomaly or a premonition of traffic nightmares to come, but the overall sentiment is that while total gridlock might be a rare event, traffic is getting steadily worse.
Officials say the Dec. 29 jam that snared cars (and city buses) for as long as two hours, was caused by an unusual confluence of events a holiday week topped with a rush-hour snowstorm. But, of course, that is exactly when a ski town needs to be at its most user-friendly. And now, with Martin Luther King, Jr., weekend, the Sundance Film Festival and Presidents Week barreling down the pike, locals, business owners and elected officials are worrying about a repeat.
The fact that our roads are reaching capacity is not a surprise. Last spring, Park City and Summit County leaders, along with officials from the Utah Department of Transportation, met to talk about future transportation alternatives. Given projected growth in the area there was a consensus that alternative modes of transportation, like light rail, should be considered.
But what about next week?
Rail lines take years to plan, to fund and to build. In the meantime, all of the resorts’ efforts to please their guests will be for naught if visitors spend a good portion of their vacations fuming in traffic.
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There have been some good, small steps toward reducing traffic. Deer Valley has been busing employees in from Heber and Salt Lake City. Main Street merchants have been trying to encourage their staffs to shuttle into Old Town from the middle school on Kearns Boulevard. And the city’s transit system has been expanding every year to offer more frequent and more widespread service.
But unless everyone participates, more draconian measures (including paid parking at the ski resorts) may be needed.
Park City used to be a small town. But today it is a full-fledged city with many of the same challenges that face metropolitan communities around the country.
City and county officials, along with neighboring counties like Wasatch and Salt Lake, need to be working harder to come up with both short- and long-term solutions.
Here is one: As we glance around trying to offer some constructive suggestions we can’t help but wonder about the ready-made park-and-ride lot at Richardson Flats. Each morning thousands of cars converge on State Road 248 heading toward Park City. Might that be one way to ease at least part of the daily commute?
If Park City citizens can help crowd source some viable solutions they will not only get to the slopes faster, they will also go a long way toward improving air quality and reducing their dependence on fossil fuels. Let’s start right away.