Rail Trail debate is worthy but keep S.R. 248’s bigger issue in focus too
The Park Record editorial, Sept. 23-27, 2017
September 23, 2017
Park City citizens have given city and state officials an earful about an upcoming National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study looking at ways to alleviate traffic congestion on the State Road 248 entry corridor. In particular, their attention has been focused on a recent letter sent to some residents in Prospector suggesting the Rail Trail could be considered as a supplemental transit route.
Yikes! The mere suggestion of turning the popular biking and walking path into some kind of motorized route has caused the neighborhood to storm City Hall.
If the Utah Department of Transportation was looking for a way to get residents' attention and stimulate public input, it hit the jackpot. But, in fact, that is not the reaction they intended. The study, they say, is part of an all-options-on-the-table attempt to fix one of the city's main arteries – one that is in danger of becoming fatally clogged in the near future.
That is one thing residents, visitors and commuters agree on: S.R. 248 is becoming increasingly impassable, not just during ski season and busy holiday weekends, but year round.
Given the Rail Trail's historic role as an existing and relatively flat easement, it is easy to understand why UDOT included it as a possible option in what is anticipated to be at least a year-long process of evaluating a variety of solutions to Park City's entryway blockage.
And, kudos to the concerned citizen who alerted the newspaper about the letter, which was sent to property owners along the trail. Even if it is a false alarm and the Rail Trail isn't a viable option, it has served to focus attention on the public scoping process and inspired a number of residents to start talking about some creative solutions.
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S.R. 248 has been a challenge for at least two decades. The route is constrained by wetlands on one side and a mountain on the other, pinching it to two lanes as it enters the city and precluding simpler remedies like adding lanes and widening shoulders.
Instead, efforts to make the road safer and facilitate traffic flow have included a variety of awkward traffic calming measures, none of which seemed to improve drivers' moods or commute times.
This time, though, city and state officials hope that by taking a comprehensive look at the corridor they can rally community consensus around a new solution.
But they will need the public's help to achieve that goal.
The message regarding the Rail Trail is clear. Citizens want to preserve it as a non-motorized trail. But many also acknowledge the section of S.R. 248 that serves as the city's vital eastern portal must be revamped.
Stay tuned. The discussions, which will begin in earnest in early November, are going to be lively. In the meantime, send your suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org