Buses or gondolas? UDOT weighs pros and cons of Little Cottonwood Canyon plans

Local News

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah (ABC4) – Skiers and snowboarders know all about the traffic in Little Cottonwood Canyon, sometimes spending hours to get up to Alta and Snowbird on Saturdays, Sundays, and powder days.

The Utah Department of Transportation considered 124 plans to alleviate the congestion. Now that list is down to the final two.

One plan is to widen Little Cottonwood Canyon road, add bus-only lanes, and enhance the frequency of buses to the resorts. UDOT estimates the travel time at 36 minutes and the cost of the project at $510 million.

“It’s a peak period shoulder where only buses would be able to use it during those high traffic periods,” UDOT’s Little Cottonwood Canyon Project Manager Josh Van Jura told ABC4 News. “So it would involve widening the canyon to allow for those bus-only lanes.”

The second proposal is building a gondola system, called Gondola B, to ferry 35 passengers at a time from La Caille to the resorts. The travel time would be longer at 55 to 59 minutes and the price tag higher at $592 million.

“The gondola would have towers, some of which would be 60 meters tall, so they are quite tall,” Van Jura said. “But because it operates so reliably in snow, we think that’s a huge benefit even though it’s a bit slower than the peak period shoulder lanes.”

The bus lanes would have more environmental impact on the ground level of the canyon, but the gondola towers would stand out visually above. Van Jura says there are pros and cons to both plans.

“In the enhanced bus in peak period shoulder lane has the fastest travel time for our transit users, so therefore it meets the mobility goal the best,” he said. “But because Gondola B operates in a separate alignment and obviously gondolas are made for mountain environments, it meets the reliability goal better than the bus system does.”  

UDOT is taking public comments on the proposals through August 9. If you’d like to chime in, you can submit your comments at https://littlecottonwoodeis.udot.utah.gov/.

You can also e-mail littlecottonwoodeis@utah.gov or call 801-200-3465

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