April 18, 2019

EIS for UTA’s plans for Little Cottonwood Canyon Road


By John Worlock, Member of Save Our Canyons

We have an important opportunity, for the next few weeks, to help the Utah Department of Transportation as they prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for what they call the Little Cottonwood Canyon Project.  Until May 3rd, we are invited to comment on their ideas for improving motorized transportation in that canyon.

These are not the pie-in-the sky notions of rail transit or even gondolas whisking people up and down the canyons and even over the top into Park City and beyond.  No, the current Little Cottonwood Canyon Project concentrates on the roadway and how it can be made safer, as well as more convenient and reliable.

Here is how UDOT describes the project:  “The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is focused on immediate needs, as well as projected population growth and associated traffic in Little Cottonwood Canyon, by addressing roadway capacity, avalanche mitigation, trailhead parking and traffic congestion.”   Some words are expended on bicycle and foot traffic, but strangely, very little attention is given to the possibility of increased bus service, although the proposed parking lots at trailheads do offer bus turnouts.

To study UDOT’s ideas go to Udot dot Utah dot gov slash littlecottonwoodEIS.  Study the first chapter:  “Draft Purpose and Need.”  Read about their ideas for trailhead parking at Bridge, Lisa Falls and White Pine, and for avalanche mitigation including snow sheds at a variety of important sites along the roadway.  Study their ideas for increasing the roadway capacity, involving additional lanes.

All of this is well and good if done in a tasteful way.  But what more or less terrifies this observer is the intention to accommodate the increase of traffic from projected population growth.  If we increase the canyon traffic, we will put more people into the canyons and the mountains.  Can the canyons and the mountains entertain more people without degradation of the things that we value?  For example: solitude and wildlife and the sheer beauty of the wild, high-altitude setting.

Udot should be studying and proposing ways of controlling and limiting canyon traffic rather than increasing it.

Anyhow, the Udot website will give you an opportunity to study and then comment on their EIS.  Listen carefully now:  it’s udot dot Utah dot gov slash littlecottonwoodeis.