June 23, 2022

Media Roundup: The Truth About The Proposed Gondola In Little Cottonwood Canyon

Media Roundup: The Truth About The Proposed Gondola In Little Cottonwood Canyon. UDOT continues to review their proposed alternatives for transportation in Little Cottonwood Canyon. They have had their hands full due to your action and participation. With over 13,000 comments submitted it is crystal clear that you care about an outcome that is a win not just for resorts, but for year-round visitors to this canyon and the valley residents that depend on its water. 

There are a lot of myths being pushed as fact related to the proposed gondola. And on Wednesday, June 22 a coalition of elected leaders, community organizations, and concerned citizens united together at G.K. Gilbert Geologic View Park to talk about the proposed gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Maeve Reiss

Screen Shot 2022 06 23 at 1.57.06 PMJune 22, 2022: Officials blast Little Cottonwood gondola as ‘boondoggle,’ call on UDOT to start over with canyon plan

As Utah transportation officials wrap up their multiyear study of potential transportation solutions for Little Cottonwood Canyon, two completely different visions have been staked out for the future of Utah’s world-famous ski destination, which is becoming more associated with traffic gridlock than with breathtaking outdoor recreation.On one side is the ski industry-backed idea of an 8-mile gondola connecting Alta with the canyon mouth, which has drawn flack from elected leaders who see the project, with its 200-foot towers and suspended cables, as an eyesore and a boondoggle. 

“Don’t you think the canyon deserves a little more time for us to get it right,” Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said. “Rather than rip up the canyon with a half-a-billion-dollar price tag, let’s invest in common-sense solutions. Parking hubs in the valley, electric busing with regular routes, carpooling and tolling, reservations, common-sense solutions that are fiscally sound. Gondolas and wider roads are going to be built around the world, but God will not create any more canyons for us.”She was joined by the mayors of Sandy and Alta, the two cities at either end of the gondola, lawmakers, Salt Lake County Council members, Salt Lake City officials, along with various activists, who want the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to scrap its draft transportation plan and start over.

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Screen Shot 2022 06 23 at 2.00.37 PMJune 22, 2022: Leaders, advocacy groups blast gondola ‘gimmick’ as UDOT ponders popular canyon’s future

The future of Little Cottonwood Canyon became one of Monica Zoltanski’s major talking points during her campaign in last fall’s Sandy mayoral race.She says it came with good reason. As she knocked on doors in the weeks leading up to the election, she said she kept hearing from residents of the city who opposed the plan for a new gondola; complaints about the idea haven’t stopped after she took over as the mayor of Salt Lake County’s fourth-largest city. “The people of Sandy do not want a gondola up this canyon,” she said Wednesday afternoon, to the applause of a crowd of opponents of the project gathered at G.K. Gilbert Geologic View Park near the mouth of the canyon. “I will exhaust my last breath to make sure the decision-makers know this.” Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and five members of the Salt Lake County Council joined Zoltanski in pushing back against the gondola option Wednesday, as did Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, Rep. Gay Lynn Bennion, D-Cottonwood Heights, and a handful of other state and local leaders from across the political aisle.

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Screen Shot 2022 06 23 at 2.04.52 PM  June 22, 2022: Salt Lake County leaders reiterate opposition to Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola

A group of bipartisan elected leaders voiced their opposition Wednesday to the idea of a gondola being built in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

“The people of Sandy do not want a gondola up this canyon,” said Sandy Mayor Monica Zoltanski. Zoltanski was just one of many people invited to a gathering organized by the groups Friends of Alta and Save our Canyons. Nearly a hundred people also came to hear those groups make the case against a proposed gondola.“Not only do I think it can be stopped, I think it will be stopped,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.

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Screen Shot 2022 06 23 at 1.48.04 PMJune 22, 2022; Community leaders say Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola advertisements are misinforming Utahns

You might be familiar with the advertisement from Gondola Works, advocating for a gondola to be constructed in Little Cottonwood Canyon, starring actor Bart Johnson.Snowbird has been advocating for the gondola as a solution to little cottonwood canyon’s traffic problems. “If you care about air quality, water quality, the safety of the people going up and down the canyon and the reliability of knowing how long it’s going to take to get up and down the canyon, the only option is gondola,” said Dave Fields, President and General Manager. “There are 64 avalanche paths in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It’s the most avalanche prone canyon in North America. We need a transportation solution that takes into account that reality. This is not like a commute in the Valley.” UDOT estimates the busing solution would cost $510 million; it would mean a wider road with lanes only buses could use during peak traffic times. The gondola is estimated at $600 million; Little Cottonwood Canyon would be filled with more than 20 steel towers as tall as sky scrapers. “We’re not trying to create more marketing gimmicks to attract Midwesterners or people from the East Coast,” said Brad Rutledge, Board Member for the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance. “We’re trying to solve traffic problems.”

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Screen Shot 2022 06 23 at 2.08.11 PM June 22, 2022: Community leaders express opposition to gondola in LCC

With more than 2 million visitors each year, the traffic in Little Cottonwood Canyon is a problem that continues to grow, and UDOT has proposed two alternatives to reduce traffic. One is expanding the road to four lanes and enhancing bus services. The other is building a gondola that would go up and down the canyon. Both are expected to cost over half a billion dollars. Gondola opponents say the proposal is fiscally irresponsible and will have limited benefit to the public. They say the gondola only stops at ski resorts and may only be used by people going to the resorts while costing taxpayers over $500 million dollars.

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