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Little Cottonwood Canyon Tranist Alternatives Introduced


The Utah Department of Transportation wants public input on transit plans that address backups and safety issues for Little Cottonwood Canyon.

UDOT Project Manager Josh Vanjura says the three guiding concepts for transit planning are safety, reliability, and mobility. The study corridor is SR 210 which starts on Wasatch Boulevard and ends at the town of Alta. Wasatch Boulevard has traffic issues that are considered failing during commute times, Monday through Friday and on busy skier days. Vanjura says they applied five common elements to each of the alternatives.

“So, those five common elements are avalanche mitigation, Wasatch Boulevard, trailhead parking, snowsheds and a mobility hub."

UDOT is proposing two different bus alternatives, both would support 24 buses per hour during winter season. Both options would include large parking areas, known as mobility hubs, accommodating up to 2500 vehicles, direct service to either Alta or Snowbird, and priority signaling and dedicated bus lanes on Wasatch Boulevard. Vanjura says if nothing is done to improve transit, the average travel times in peak periods in Little Cottonwood Canyon by 2050 are projected to be 85 minutes.

“For both private vehicles and buses, [it] would be 46 minutes. Time for people using the bus would be 54 minutes and both of these are substantial improvements.”

The second enhanced bus service alternative would would widen SR 210 through Little Cottonwood. Projected travel times under this scenario would be 36 minutes in a private vehicle and 37 minutes on the bus.

“The big difference here is there essentially would be a shoulder running bus option. The additional benefit of this widening is that it would provide safety, not only for motorists from side friction with those vehicles, but it would also provide room for cyclists and pedestrians the rest of the year.”

Vanjura says the third alternative is a gondola base at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon and ending at Alta. Parking for this transit option could not be at the gondola base area.

“An important part of this is, you would have to take a bus from the mobility hub to the mouth, AKA the base station, of the gondola. And the main reason for that is Wasatch and North Little Cottonwood Road just can't handle that number of cars, that would be entering a mobility hub at that location."

Avalanches shut the road an average of 56 hours each year. UDOT’s bus transit plans recommend snow sheds in several key locations which would reduce road closure to 11 hours a year.

The enhanced bus service options include some trailhead improvements along with the reduction or elimination of roadside parking which is considered a safety issue in the canyon. Vanjura says they must decrease vehicle travel by 30% and the new transit plans may involve charging a toll and or prohibiting single occupancy vehicles in the canyon.

The options will be published on UDOT’s website on Monday June 8. They’ll take public input until July 10. Several virtual public open house meetings are scheduled for June 22 and June 23 from 6 to 8 pm. They plan to hold one real time meeting, limited to 50 people, on June 24th.

A link to UDOT’s draft transportation alternatives can be found here.


KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.