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Summit County Council Members Debating Again On Central Wasatch Commission's Transit Ideas

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Central Wasatch Commission
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The Summit County Council, and other stakeholders, are being asked to comment, again, on the proposal from the Central Wasatch Commission for a Mountain Transportation System .

Some of the transit options in that plan—like linking the Cottonwood Canyons to Park City by  all-season road, tunnel, or aerial-- have been hot buttons with County Council members.

But following their discussion this week, Council Member Kim Carson says she’s willing to explore the plan and cautiously consider all the options.  

The connectors from the Wasatch Canyons were proposed three or four years ago by the CWC’s earlier incarnation, known as the Mountain Accord.

Since then, Kim Carson noted, it’s become apparent that the Park City area often gets ski customers from the Wasatch Front, thanks to traffic jams in those canyons, and multi-resort ski passes like the Epic and the Ikon.

So Carson said she’s changed her mind, slightly, about the mountain connectors to Park City. 

“Because of changes, I mean we have a considerable amount of traffic coming over, even when it’s not a day when Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons are closed due to avalanche danger.   And I think we need to just take a step back and look at any and all possible solutions at this point.   So I would go in with a cautious attitude.”

At a meeting nearly a year ago,  some Council Members were perturbed to hear from a Central Wasatch representative that a tunnel link was still in the plan.     

“We were surprised because we had been fairly adamant.  But the more I’ve had a chance to reflect, going into this next phase of the Central Wasatch Commission does not—it’s just an exploration.  It’s to further refine and develop transportation principles and different initiatives that were outlined in the Mountain Accord.   And I think some of those still apply.”

Some Council members, such as Doug Clyde and Roger Armstrong, said Wednesday that the Central Wasatch plan still looks like an effort to link Sandy with the Wasatch Back, and boost its profile as a ski resort venue.

Carson, meanwhile, said she’s not as bothered by Sandy’s role as she had been.        

“They’re growing down there, and that may be how they wanna promote themselves, both for people that want to work, live and play from Sandy, and also to attract also a chunk of the tourism business.   I’m not as concerned about that as I used to be.   We already have a lot of people coming around the canyon both ways, to and from that area.  So I think regardless we’re gonna see traffic coming back and forth.   I would say the biggest concern with looking at a connection is the environmental impacts.  And a close second is looking at the impacts and the number of people coming to the area.”

Carson said the Central Wasatch may also help them implement improvements for Highways 224 and 248, so they should be at the Commission’s  table.

One option in the plan is a fast transit link from the Salt Lake Airport to the Park City area.      

“Whether that would be a direct bus line, a BRT.   Right now, there’s typically not a lot of congestion coming up the canyon, as once people get into town.   I believe it was Glenn made a really good point, that currently, our private transportation services are doing a good job of bringing large groups of people in, and then taking them directly to their destination.  Whereas if they came up on BRT, which is the Bus Rapid Transit, they would need to go to a transit stop within the Park City area, and then transfer to be able to get to their final destination.”

There are pros and cons to that idea, which they should examine.    

“Some people don’t have the means to hire a private transportation service.   So they may be using Uber, or something like that.  But this may be a more cost-effective alternative for them”

Finally, at a time when some residents say our vision shouldn’t be “Amusement Park City” we asked Carson, what good is the Central Wasatch Commission.     

“Without going through this next step, I think you can sit back and do nothing.  Or you can explore alternatives that are gonna make a difference.  And I think it’s worth exploring those alternatives.”

Summit County Council Member Kim Carson

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covers Summit County meetings and issues. KPCW snagged him from The Park Record in the '80s, and he's been on air and covering the entire county ever since. He produces the Week In Review podcast, as well a heads the Friday Film Review team.
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