The Park City Council addressed publicly for the first time the Utah Department of Transportation’s State Route 248 project at the Council meeting Thursday, hours before the public comment period ended.
Park City Mayor Andy Beerman says UDOT asked the Council not to weigh in and influence the public during the SR 248 environmental assessment’s 30-day public comment period. As the public comment period wrapped up last week, with hundreds of comments submitted to UDOT for consideration, Beerman says UDOT requested formal communication from the Park City and Summit County Councils on the project through a resolution.
The environmental assessment looks at a variety of options, including a no-build option, for mitigating traffic congestion on 248. The assessment landed on a preferred alternative, which includes four lanes of traffic on 248 from 224 to U.S. 40, plus a center turn lane; turn lanes at intersections; and a widening of the shoulders for potential use by transit.
Councilmember Steve Joyce said he was hesitant to craft a resolution without having seen all the comments. He says he’s heard from people who are in favor of the project as well as those who oppose it, though other councilmembers said every comment they had personally received from constituents had expressed opposition to the preferred alternative.
“I've got my personal views, but as a councilperson representing the people, I really want to go through the 200 whatever it is comments that we've gotten, think about that and then come back and start working on a resolution," Joyce said.
Councilmember Nann Worel agreed with Joyce that she’d like to see the public comments, but she believes the preferred alternative violates what the community is trying to accomplish under its core value of maintaining a small-town feel.
“One of the goals under our small town in the general plan is that we're going to encourage alternative modes of transportation on a regional and local scale to maintain our small-town character," Worel said. "Personally, I don't think that sound walls to protect neighborhoods from road noise fits into a small-town concept.”
The consensus by most of the councilmembers is the cross section of the project is too wide with too much asphalt, or, as Councilmember Becca Gerber put it:
“I don’t want my kids having to cross a football field to go to school.”
Park City Interim Transportation Director Alfred Knotts says transit can’t operate through that corridor currently because it’s too narrow, particularly between Sidewinder Dr. and Richardson Flat Road, where the two lanes in each direction funnel down to one. Knotts says the project isn’t an all-or-nothing decision and that refinements can be made to incorporate transit, though UDOT has the final word on the project.
Councilmember Tim Henney says it’s important for the City to have a transit-first policy when it comes to the corridor improvement.
“If what is driving what happens on 248 is to facilitate and make it easier for more vehicles to travel through that chokepoint, I don't think any of us can support it that's the difference.”
Beerman weighed in, saying he was comfortable drafting a resolution that generally expressed the City’s commitment to transit as a transportation solution.
“This is not a problem we're going to build our way out of--that's never been an objective of this Council," Beerman said. "Doesn't mean we might not have to make some interchange improvements; it doesn't mean we might not have to make some small changes to accommodate better buses and transit, but everything I've heard from all of you has been that transit is our first and foremost focus, as opposed to addressing congestion.”
The Council instructed staff to craft a resolution on SR 248 that’s cooperative and goal-oriented, prepared jointly with the County. The resolution will be presented Thursday for a vote by Council.