If you’ve skied Alta or Snowbird in the past couple of years, then you probably know that the traffic in Little Cottonwood Canyon has become progressively worse. Everybody has their own theory of why this might be: from above-average snowfall, to more season pass options, to lower gas prices, to limited public transportation. But despite these various theories, every is agreement that something needs to be done about the problem. I mean, these 3-hour ‘red snakes’ down the canyon can’t be the new normal!
Fortunately for us, the Department of Transportation (UDOT) is also aware of the problem and is currently in the process of trying to come up with a solution. In the spring of 2018 they began working with the Utah Transit Authority and the USDA Forest Service to come up with an Environmental Impact Statement to study traffic congestion along State Hwy 210, starting at the intersection of Forth Union Boulevard and ending at the Town of Alta.
The numbers UDOT came up with — and which are available online for the public to read — are pretty startling. They discovered that Little Cottonwood Canyon receives over 2.1 million visitors per year, with about 1.2 million traveling by vehicle. On a busy winter day there’re about 7000 cars driving up to ski. Of all the people who ski Alta and Snowbird only 4% use public transportation. And to make matters worse by 2050 the Salt Lake and Utah counties is expected to grow by 36% and 108% respectively, with most people moving here to take advantage of the recreational opportunities that the Wasatch Range has to offer.
With about 165 million having been appropriated for Little Cottonwood Canyon by state lawmakers, UDOT is now in the early phase of developing strategies to improve traffic, especially during peak travel times. The three proposed plans they’ve come up with so far are:
1) to increase the number of buses throughout the day, as many as 6 or 7 per hour.
2) to add an extra lane along State Hwy 210 and designate it as a bus lane, as well as building sheds across natural slide paths.
3) to install a 35-person gondola which would start near the park-and-ride and transport up to 1000 people per hour, with angle stations at Tanner’s Flat and Snowbird.
What are your thoughts on these proposed plans? Everyone in the Alta Community has their own opinion on the matter and have for the most part been pretty vocal about it. If you would like to weigh in, you have until July 10 to submit your comment here.