Possible toll coming to Little Cottonwood Canyon

Local News

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah (ABC4 News) – If you’ve been up to the Cottonwood Canyons, you’ve probably noticed the red snake of cars along Wasatch Boulevard up to the ski resorts during the winter months. 

The Utah Department of Transportation is looking to mitigate the traffic and make it easier to get up to places like Little Cottonwood Canyon. 

John Thomas with UDOT is in charge of the Environment Impact Statement. He says, “UDOT has taken the approach to look at Little Cottonwood Canyon to see what options are available to help improve transportation.”

UDOT officials say 2.1 million people visit the canyon annually. 

By 2050 they predict a 45 percent growth from Fort Union Boulevard to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon along Wasatch Boulevard. 

Adding to that, UDOT expects a 37% growth in Salt Lake County and 108 percent growth in Utah County, bringing an extra 1 million or so new residents to the area.

“One of the ways we are trying to improve transportation up Little Cottonwood Canyon is getting people to carpool, to use transit, to find ways to get fewer vehicles up and down the canyon,” says Thomas.

UDOT may institute a toll by 2022 as a result of the study. 

In the recent Environmental Impact Study update, UDOT states:

“Roadway elements do not meet current design standards; for example, shoulders that are narrow, and horizontal and vertical curves that are steep and/or sharp,” and “Limited parking at trailheads and ski areas leads to on-road parking that reduces mobility and safety for all users.”

Thomas says, “We do get more recreational activity and we are trying to predict what that growth rate is, and provide mobility for those people to move in and out of the canyon whether it is on transit or private vehicles.”

The other issue officials are facing is avalanches in the winter.  If unpredicted, and one happens in Little Cottonwood Canyon along White Pine Chutes, White Pine, and Little Pine, canyon users could be stuck in traffic for 1-4 hours while crews clear the roads.

UDOT officials are going to talk about all this during the Salt Lake City Council Work Session on Tuesday. 

The Environmental Impact Study should be drafted by this fall and could be finalized by the Spring of 2021. 

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