Local officials seeking alternative solutions amid proposed gondola option in Little Cottonwood Canyon
LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah. — Elected and local representatives are seeking simplified and no-nonsense solutions in regards to the proposed gondola up Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC) and the challenges it would impose. A gathering at the G.K. Gilbert Geologic View Park near the mouth of the canyon on Wednesday made it clear that they are opposed to the suggested gondola.
Last June, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which identified two preferred alternatives to improve transportation in Little Cottonwood Canyon. These alternatives include enhanced bus service in a peak-period shoulder lane that “best improves mobility,” and the gondola option (base station from La Caille) as an alternative that “best improves reliability.”
Both of these alternatives would cost more than $500 million in taxpayer funds. Snowbird, Alta, and Ski Utah have endorsed the gondola option under the Gondola Works coalition.
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson pointed out that the issue needs more time and attention before rushing into a massive irreversible project.
“Don’t you think the canyon deserves a little more time for us to get it right? But we don’t need to ignore the problem. 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,” Wilson said. “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.”
There are several solutions that have been proposed that are less invasive. These include two mobility hubs, enhanced buses, tolling infrastructure, trailhead parking, parking management strategies (smartphone travel app), multi-passenger vehicle initiatives, and expanded traction device requirements. Overall, these options would cost approximately $242 million and are being heavily supported by Sandy City Mayor Monica Zoltanski.
“I campaigned heavily on this issue, protecting Little Cottonwood Canyon, stopping the gondola, and I’m here today to fulfill a campaign promise. I will use my voice in every way that I can to educate the Sandy residents and to let our elected officials at the state level know, and UDOT know, that the people of Sandy do not want a gondola up this canyon,” Mayor Zoltanski said.
“Why can’t we put common-sense solutions to the test? Take our time, exhaust the reasonable solutions, especially the solutions that the resorts themselves initiate or should initiate. Why should the Utah taxpayer stand up and put pick up the tab? Utah is growing fast we all know it we all feel it, all the more reason to stand up to the call of stewardship for our canyons. As the Mayor of Sandy City, I am here to say that the people of Sandy do not want this gondola.”
Those in favor of the gondola have suggested two options: “transition to clean energy or ride the bus.”
As pointed out by Brad Rutledge of the Wasatch Back Country Alliance, organizations such as the Gondola Works Coalition have exported somewhat misleading campaigns, going as far as to stretch the truth about the conditions of Utah’s buses.
“The media campaign thats out there is trying to convince the average Utahn that this is the right solution. There’s misinformation, it’s inaccurate, it’s designed to mislead, and it should piss everyone off to be honest,” Rutledge said. “People supporting the gondola believe that Utahns will be fooled with this misinformation. It won’t work. The gondola won’t work either. So let’s do everything we can to join forces for common sense solutions that work.”
Images from Gondola Works advertisements:
Big Gondola is doing its best to make it seem like only The Poors ride those dirty UTA buses, further showing how out of touch this shadowy group trying to ramrod this boondoggle through Little Cottonwood Canyon is with the people who use the canyons. pic.twitter.com/JwrbWv2Onp
— Taylor W Anderson (@TaylorWAnderson) June 23, 2022
For now, officials and citizens will have to wait for UDOT to make their decision on the matter but it’s obvious that those against the gondola are doing everything they can to push back hard. From elected representatives to locals, the gondola will face an immense uphill battle if things proceed.
A decision from UDOT is expected this summer. Plans would have to be finalized by the Utah Legislature.