SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – A resolution to oppose the Utah Department of Transportation’s (UDOT) proposed gondola at Little Cottonwood Canyon was passed Tuesday by Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and the County Council.
In a narrow 5-4 vote, the joint resolution recommends UDOT abandon the gondola from consideration and instead adopt an alternative known as the Common-Sense Solutions Approach to address the traffic issues throughout the canyon.
The Common-Sense Solutions Approach would aim to utilize electric buses with mobility hubs to help alleviate the traffic caused by millions of visitors that travel in the canyon. Using tolling and parking management strategies, the approach would seek to incentivize carpooling and rideshare programs.
County officials say the approach is a more “fiscally conservative and environmentally sound option.”
“Instead of constructing 23 sky-scraper-sized gondola towers that will devastate the majestic views of the canyon, UDOT should pursue common-sense solutions that invest in more practical, adaptable, and less invasive transportation strategies,” said Mayor Wilson. “These solutions on their own have the potential to solve the traffic problem without destroying our canyon. This common-sense approach will demonstrate that the costly and unsightly gondola is not right for our canyons.”
In late August, UDOT singled out building a gondola at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon as the preferred alternative to alleviate traffic in the area.
According to the Salt Lake County officials, the gondola proposal was met with disapproval as “dozens of Salt Lake County residents spoke against the gondola” at the Salt Lake County work meeting.
“We know how important this study is to so many canyon users, as the amount of public participation and comments we’ve received far surpasses any previous environmental study in UDOT’s history,” said UDOT Project Manager Josh Van Jura in August when UDOT proposed the gondola. “With numerous studies over many years as the starting point for addressing the transportation challenges in Little Cottonwood Canyon, we relied on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process of in-depth technical analysis and environmental assessment, along with agency and public input, to identify Gondola B as the preferred alternative in the Final EIS.”
Despite the study performed by UDOT, the County Council and Mayor oppose the gondola, saying the $550 million price tag that would fall on taxpayers is too high. County officials also shared concerns over the amount of traffic the proposal would actually alleviate, saying it would only remove lessen traffic by about 30%.
City Officials also criticized the construction of the gondola towers and the limited flexibility to pivot in the event of “changing circumstances.”
Laurie Stringham, the Salt Lake County Council Chair, said it is easy for an entity with a narrow scope of an issue to come to a conclusion. She urged the State of Utah to consider more than just traffic saying as public officials, there is a range of problems to solve such as water protection and fire safety.
“Taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for a permanent and risky project like this, especially when we could invest in common-sense solutions like electric busses that can also be used to benefit transportation issues across Salt Lake Valley,” said Jim Bradley, Salt Lake County Councilmember.
Utahns have until October 17 to submit feedback on UDOT’s gondola proposal, which is something Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson urges the public to do.