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Park City Council hits pause on Snow Creek tunnel

The area on state Route 248 where the tunnel or crosswalk would be installed.
Connor Thomas
The area on state Route 248 where the tunnel or crosswalk would be installed.

The Park City Council wants to delay building a new pedestrian tunnel underneath Kearns Boulevard. The council wants surrounding development to play out first.

The proposed tunnel, which the city has considered building for over a decade, would connect the DoubleTree hotel property, formerly known as The Yarrow, to the Snow Creek Plaza, home of The Market and the state liquor store.

During a public hearing at Thursday’s Park City Council meeting, former council member Alex Butwinski said the tunnel would help solve trail connectivity in the greater area.

“The tunnel at Snow Creek will give you the ability to ride on a bicycle going across a major road from Kimball Junction to Old Town,” Butwinski said. “The question is for me, if not now, when?”

Butwinski said the project would also support the city’s goals of reducing traffic and keeping people out of vehicles.

The owner of the DoubleTree has proposed redeveloping the property into a new mixed use complex. The application is being reviewed by the Park City Planning Commission. It’s not clear when, or if, the commission will approve the project.

For that reason, Park City Councilmember Jeremy Rubell said he’d like to wait before acting on the tunnel.

“The big hang up with what’s in front of us is The Yarrow side of the street, so if we could come back with a proposal that better integrates the experience from that side of the street and keeps a nice wide sidewalk, to me it’s a different conversation and definitely worth pursuing funding for,” Rubell said.

Councilmember Ed Parigian agreed that waiting is the right move.

“I just think there’s too many variables in this spot, in this area right now, that I don’t want to spend millions and millions of dollars,” Parigian said. “But I don’t want to say no tunnel, because I think we need a tunnel at some point.”

Parigian suggested potentially moving the tunnel eastward towards Homestake Road and the five acres the city is poised to develop along Bonanza Drive.

Councilmember Bill Ciraco questioned the project’s price tag.

“The costs for that have ballooned dramatically from 10 years ago and even in as little as the last two years from about $13 million to about $18.5 million,” Ciraco said. “That begs the question, is that the right investment to make there?”

The council wants the city to explore installing a crosswalk in the area of the tunnel to serve as a short-term solution. A traffic study is required because any crossing on a state road must be approved by the Utah Department of Transportation.

City engineer John Robertson said a crosswalk there would ban left turns on Kearns Blvd. into the Snow Creek Plaza.

Rubell said that’s a fair price to pay if the city wants to support the pedestrian experience.

“If cars have to sit there a little longer, okay. I mean, if our priority is people getting out of cars, walking and biking, then that should be our priority, right? We can’t have it all,” he said.

The council expressed support for installing a crosswalk there by the end of the year.

Council members Tana Toly and Ryan Dickey were both absent at Thursday’s meeting.