Tom Clyde: Speed limits and consultant firms
I was out with some friends the other day and the conversation turned to the sudden change in the speed limit on S.R. 224 by the McPolin Barn.
UDOT and the Highway Patrol said they made the change because of the increasing number of accidents involving wildlife in that area. The animals won’t use the crosswalk. Some of the group thought it was ridiculous to lower the speed limit for that short stretch.
Others thought a nighttime reduction would be appropriate, because during daylight hours, even with the coffee cup in one hand and the phone in the other, people ought to be able to see an elk standing in the middle of the road.
Everybody had an idea and a suggestion on how to do it better. I don’t drive S.R. 224 very often, and was puzzled by the whole conversation.
You mean there are actual speed limits on S.R. 224? Who knew?
It’s not quite the free-fire zone that exists on I-80 after crossing the summit, but if there are speed limits on S.R. 224, it’s news to me. My friends explained that the speed limit along there changes several times at completely arbitrary points between Park City and Kimball Junction. It defies a lifetime of experience.
I always thought it was either “go like hell” or “panic stop” in those rare cases where somebody in front of you actually stops for a red light.
Nobody pays $100,000 for an Audi to drive slow and stop for lights. So I’m doubtful that reducing the posted (but ignored) speed limit there will make a difference in traffic safety. And heaven help some innocent who is actually driving 45 mph when they get run over from behind by an Escalade doing 80 mph on the way to the airport.
In other highway news, the Mayor announced to the City Council that there had been a major breakthrough in discussions with UDOT over the improvements to S.R. 248. UDOT proposed widening it to 4 lanes all the way into town. That seemed like a good idea, but UDOT can never just widen something to 4 lanes.
By the time they were through with stacking lanes, turn lanes, breakdown lanes wide enough to park a jet on, and so on, it was a really big honking road surface. Four lanes on steroids.
Nobody liked it, not even people like me who spend way too much time stalled in the traffic there.
The UDOT plan was going to cost $62.8 million, a figure that seems impossible to explain, but that was their cost estimate. Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess, I suppose. There were a lot of reasons not to like it, but there are 62.8 million reasons right there.
Anyway, after months of discussions with UDOT, the Mayor announced that the new plan is to – drum roll – REPAINT THE LANE MARKINGS ON THE EXISTING ROAD TO CREATE 2 WESTBOUND LANES the whole way in. For a possible $3 million add on, they might be able to widen the pavement in a place or two and paint a second outbound lane, though the outbound traffic doesn’t back up quite as bad because the speed limits increase as you leave town.
UDOT is scheduled to re-pave the existing road in the summer of 2021, and thought they could repaint the lines as part of that project. The Mayor said, “it’s a timely and inexpensive project.”
No kidding. It’s so simple even I could have thought of that.
Oh, wait, I did think of that. I’ve been recommending it for at least 10 years. I’m sure that between UDOT and Park City, they will find a way to complicate it, but it seems like something they could finish before lunch for about $1,000 in paint.
It could happen tomorrow, but for some reason, will be delayed until 2021. I smell another consulting contract.
While the second lane would certainly move more traffic, the City wants that extra lane to be a bus-only lane. The idea is that we will all park our cars in the imaginary parking lot, and then a thousand of us will pile on to the same bus to make the final penetration into town. Maybe they can paint a parking lot and a fleet of buses while they’re at it.
During the Olympics, park-and-ride worked perfectly at all hours of the day and deep into the night. Of course there were a couple of hundred buses in the temporary fleet, and endless Olympic cash behind them. Even if they are super cool, whiz-bang electric buses, there are limits to how long daily commuters will stand in the cold waiting for one.
But the idea that they will restripe the existing pavement to make another lane, in two years, instead of spending $62 million, is progress. Timely? Well, not so much.
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.
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Tom Kelly reflects on ski season. “Saturday ski groups didn’t work this year. We waited longer in lift lines, often silently. More people discovered our personal secret access points. But we survived. And we skied.”