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Summit Council Considers Traffic Relief for Kimball Junction While Public Gives Input

Summit County

The Summit County Council Wednesday reviewed four options for relieving congestion at Kimball Junction.


Council Members were not charged with making a recommendation, but they favored most the plan that would elevate the two cross streets intersecting Highway 224. 


Rick Brough reports their least favorite featured a route that would encroach on an open-space conservation easement at the Hi-Ute Ranch.


The Council’s sentiments about the four options in UDOT’s study mirror what the public has indicated so far in a survey conducted by the state. County Transportation Manager Caroline Rodriguez said the survey is still taking responses until Friday, Feb. 12th.


She said the survey has had nearly 570 responses. By far, the least preferred in the survey is Alternative Two, affecting Hi-Ute, which only 7% of respondents favored.


The most preferred, by 54%, is Alternative Three, the elevated crossings of Ute Boulevard and the Olympic Parkway. Those are currently signalized intersections on State Route 224, often seeing traffic congestion at peak times.


Under Alternative Three, S.R. 224 would stay in the same alignment, but would be depressed below those surface streets.


Councilor Chris Robinson explained what he likes about the option.


“What I like about it is the ability to connect, in a friendly pedestrian way, the two sides of 224, and still allow the local traffic to move in those upper yellow lines, the north-southbound traffic that’s either going to or from Park City is able to speed right through,” Robinson said. “So we’re not mixing those flows of traffic. I think that gives us the most opportunity to make the Kimball Junction a real neighborhood.”


Robinson added this option will probably be more expensive than some of the other plans.


Councilor Doug Clyde also favored Three. He said that eliminating the Ute Boulevard intersection is their primary concern.


“I like the flyovers, first of all, obviously from Ute, and to a lesser degree in Olympic,” Clyde said. “I think those are important if we are ever going to do anything that moves the concept forward that the East Side is connected to the West Side I don’t think we can do that without flyovers. Roundabouts may be an alternative there, but when you take 224 and put it in a roundabout, it’s going to look like the Arc de Triomphe. So I don’t think that’s a practical solution, even if we could get the bank to give us their building for free, and McDonald’s was willing to go away.”


The least favorite route, Alternative Two, is proposing a kind of back-door route to siphon off transit and high-occupany vehicles, from the Ecker Hill park n ride around to the Olympic Parkway. The route would trim off the eastern edge of the Hi-Ute Ranch Conservation Easement and would result in reconstruction of the Millenium Trail.


Clyde said that option is probably dead on arrival and is legally the least feasible. 


But he said one element of the plan could still be used as a way to channel traffic. That would be a connector running south from Olympic Parkway, parallel to S.R. 224, and connecting back to 224 with a signalized intersection at Bear Cub Drive.


The connector would be running through open space that was set up with the approval of the Boyer Tech Park back in 2008. The land is under a deed restriction. But Clyde said there’s likely a reason a conservation easement wasn’t placed on the land.


“Whether that’s a good alternative or not, I think the entire reason why that open-space parcel wasn’t restricted was because we thought that that open-space parcel would be part of our transit solutions going forward. We thought that there probably would be roads in there that would be necessary to help eliminate congestion at Ute or Olympic. And so I don’t of that as a negative at all, and I think could definitely be incorporated into any of the alternatives, to the extent that it diverts traffic from Olympic or Ute.”


Alternative One is described as a plan that would use so-called “tight-diamond interchanges with Texas U-turns” and half-diamond interchanges, aiming to better distribute traffic at the Kimball Interchange. It would include one-way frontage roads to ostensibly provide better access to residential and commercial locations around Kimball.


However, councilor Roger Armstrong said that plan was ‘ridiculously confusing.”


“And it doesn’t feel, intuitively, like it does much to relieve traffic,” Armstrong said. “It looks like it takes traffic off in one place and then brings it all back together in another place. And I can’t tell that’s really gonna provide relief.”


Councilor Malena Stevens said she had no real objection to that option, but it doesn’t address the problems at the Junction. Chris Robinson said with that plan, a pedestrian would still be risking life and limb trying to cross S.R. 224.


The Council’s direction to Caroline Rodriguez was to focus on Alternative Three in the long term, with some elements taken from other options.


But they also agreed with Stevens, who said they should adopt Alternative Four—a group of incremental improvements that can be done in the near future.


“I’m in favor of kind of massaging Alternative Three, moving forward and proposing that to UDOT, but also proposing some of these smaller, kind of band-aid alternatives from Alternative Four,” Stevens said. “I think if we can accomplish some of these in the next year or two, to improve, even incrementally, some of the traffic issues that we’re seeing, that that could benefit the community, because most of them are relatively inexpensive, especially compared to some of these other alternatives—all of the other alternatives—while we figure out what we can do with Alternative Three.”

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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