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Tunnel wins out as best way for pedestrians to cross Kearns Boulevard

The proposed pedestrian tunnel across Kearns Boulevard.
Park City Municipal
The proposed pedestrian tunnel across Kearns Boulevard.

The Park City Council selected a tunnel as the preferred method of getting pedestrians across Kearns Boulevard at the intersection with SR 224.

The Park City Council was presented with two options for a pedestrian crossing of Kearns Boulevard near the intersection with SR 224 on Thursday: bridge or tunnel.

Neither option is cheap, with the project estimated to cost the city at least $12.4 million no matter what the council chooses.

At the end of the discussion, the proposal to build a pedestrian tunnel beneath Kearns at Snow Creek Drive emerged as the preferred option.

Current estimates put the cost for a tunnel at roughly $13.5 million, but the consensus from the council was that there would not be much of an appetite from the public for a large bridge blocking views and looming over traffic.

$4.5 million for the project comes from the remaining funds left in the $15 million walkability bond passed by Park City voters in 2007. The remaining funds can come from a mix of federal grants and the city’s budget.

The Kearns and 224 intersection has been a target for pedestrian improvements for years and the council decided to pursue an enhanced pedestrian crossing last winter.

Bo Pitkin lives in Prospector and is a member of the committee of residents that helps advise the city on walkability projects. He said he also prefers a tunnel to a bridge at the SR 224 intersection.

“I don’t want to speak on behalf of the group, but for myself, the tunnel at the high school and the tunnel at Comstock have been very successful, and the tunnel under Bonanza," Pitkin said. "I would like to see the continuity of tunnels continue. I don’t care for the aesthetics of what a bridge would look like there. I also find that people, pedestrians, are going to be more likely to go down first than to go up first.”

Councilor Max Doilney added that although a bridge may be cheaper by about $1 million, he thinks the savings could easily be erased by aesthetic upgrades to make a bridge look more appealing.

“I’m with the tunnel program as well," he said. "I think that the bridge is gonna potentially present problems. I think we’ll end up with public feedback where one person is not gonna like the way it looks, another person is, and before you know it that million dollars that just came off is right back in there for aesthetics and I think then some, most likely. From a design perspective, I just think the bridge kind of sets us up for a lot more conflict than the benefit.”

In addition to pursuing a pedestrian tunnel under Kearns, the council also directed city staff to explore improvements to the existing crosswalks at the intersection. Councilor Becca Gerber said any improvements there would have to go through the Utah Department of Transportation.

“Maybe some additional methods to make it a safer pedestrian crossing," said Gerber. "I know that those are both UDOT controlled roads, so we have to reach out to UDOT and kind of get their best recommendation. Overall, we believe the safest crossing is one where you’re separating pedestrians from motorists and there’s a separate grade so that it wouldn’t negate the need for a tunnel.”

Going forward, city staff will further refine the design of the tunnels. In addition to a tunnel under Kearns, current plans include underground crossings of Snow Creek Drive and the entrance to the Holiday Village parking lot. The council said it also wants to see alternate plans that only go underneath Kearns.

The tunnel under Kearns Boulevard will return to the council later this summer. City staff have said the earliest construction could begin is spring 2023.

Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.