Central Wasatch Commission Asks For Comment On Canyons Solutions

Sep 28, 2020

Credit Mountain Accord

The Central Wasatch Commission has again opened up a public comment period to hear from citizens about solutions and options for the crowded Wasatch Front Canyons.  

The CWC presented its Mountain Transportation System Initiative September 18th.

The Chairman of the Central Wasatch Commission, Summit County Council Member Chris Robinson, said that as they consider the exponential growth in use of the Canyons, they’re looking at a holistic solution—not just individual plans for park n rides, buses or shuttles.

And Robinson said the focus is not on “transportation” but on “transit” looking away from the single-passenger vehicle.

He said the problems in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons can impact the Wasatch Back.    

“It doesn’t take much of a hiccup for the passenger cars to get jammed up.   And then the transit gets jammed up too.  And it’s more interconnected with it.   There’s even situations, I think, where if one of the Cottonwood Canyons or both are plugged up, then it shifts visitation to us on the back.”

Previously, the CWC drew 1200 comments from over 350 people in their last survey period.   That led them to present drafts of three alternative transit packages.

Alternative No. One includes options for the Park City area, including Bus Rapid Transit on Highway 224.   Robinson said developing dedicated lanes for their electric bus and other transit would be a big help. 

Unfortunately, he said, they weren’t able to obtain a federal grant recently, but they will keep trying.

For the Wasatch Front, he said their ideas include toll charges to drive up the canyons, and paid parking at the resorts, as disincentives for individual cars.   But that has to go along with an efficient transit system.

Even with transit, he said they have to find some good locations for park n rides.      

“In the case of the Wasatch Front, there’s some capture points that are being discussed, at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, where there’s a gravel pit.  There’s different places along 9400 South.  It has to be looked at from a broader lens, then there’s no where to leave your vehicle, or if you can’t take transit from further away, then it’s not gonna work.”

An Alternative Package No. 2 would add a gondola to their other options.   Robinson said some possibilities are a gondola connection to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, or to La Caille Restaurant.

And a No. 3 set of options would include a Cog Rail.

Among the sub-alternatives, the only proposal to climb over the mountains is a possible Brighton-to-Park City gondola, running six miles.

Robinson said he doesn’t know if Summit County leaders support that idea.

One proposal, he said, is a definite No.    

“The connecting-by-tunnel is a clear answer, No.   I don’t know who favors that.   I don’t know if the resorts would.  When we brought it up before, there was a different ownership pattern between Deer Valley and Solitude than there is now.  It would be good to get some public input on that.”

Another option comes from the issue of emergency access.   Robinson said the town of Alta and Alta Resort have pushed for a connection to Big Cottonwood Canyon.      

“There are challenges to that because dispersed recreationists would fear that that would lead to a ridgeline jumping-off point from an aerial system that would then destroy the backcountry experience.”

The Central Wasatch Commission is taking comments until October 18th.     A video recording of their presentation from September 18th is on their website.

They also offer a Design Your Own System feature, which is available at “surveymts.com”        

“You’re given a budget, and it allows you to play around with different options, combinations of different modes.   It’s instructive to kinda see how, what some of the trade-offs are.  It’s educational and fun.  I hope people will try it.”

Central Wasatch Commisison Chairman Chris Robinson.