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New Procedures Announced to Managed Increased Traffic in Cottonwood Canyons

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and Unified Police Department (UPD) announced new procedures to manage the expected increase in traffic this season in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons.

Canyons resorts will now monitor parking lots and determine when their lots reach capacity, and UDOT and UPD will monitor roadside parking through traffic count data, visual parking assessments and the canyon’s uphill queue. An uphill restriction will be initiated when both resort and roadside parking availability is at capacity and can no longer safely support additional vehicles at that time.

UDOT, UPD and resort representatives will be stationed at restriction turnaround points to answer questions and determine if a traveler meets uphill travel exceptions, such as employees who have critical passes or are in a resort vehicle, rideshare vehicles that do not require parking, UTA buses, canyon residents, parents picking up children and hotel/restaurant/spa guests with reservations.

Traffic in the canyons is expected to be heavier than ever, with more people turning to the outdoors for recreation to cope with COVID-19. UDOT also anticipates a decrease in those carpooling with people outside of households and lower ridership capacity on the ski buses because of the pandemic.

Along with the new access procedures, UDOT is relaunching the vehicle sticker pilot program that debuted last year for resort employees and canyon residents to make sure their vehicles are ready for winter driving. After seeing success in its first year, UDOT is expanding the pilot program to the general public to increase the number of vehicles entering the canyons with proper equipment. 

“Together in coordination with the resorts, UPD and UDOT may determine that the heavy amount of traffic congestion creates a public safety hazard that requires the restriction of uphill traffic,” UPD Sgt. Ed Twohill said. “Having a plan for coordination on uphill restrictions and better prepared vehicles through the sticker program ensures a better experience for all canyon travelers.”

There will be two sticker program distributions for past participants only and three open to the public on Monday, November 16 from 7am – 6pmThursday, November 19, from 7am – 6pm and Saturday, November 21 from 7am – 4pm. At this time, participation in the pilot program is limited to 3,000 total vehicles, by signing up in advance on a first-come, first-served basis. This amount is based on last year’s participant numbers, which was roughly 1,000, and what UDOT has the capability to distribute taking into consideration operational needs and maintaining COVID-19 precautions.More information on the sticker program, traction law and uphill traffic restrictions can be found on the UDOT Cottonwood Canyons website

“With the expansion of the sticker program, we expect to have more vehicles ready for winter driving conditions,” UDOT Cottonwoods Roadway Operations Supervisor Jake Brown said. “Our goal is to keep traffic moving in the canyons, and UDOT will do everything we can to provide the latest information on road conditions, parking, avalanche closures and restrictions to help visitors plan ahead.”

Travelers are encouraged to plan ahead by checking the UDOT Traffic App, the UDOT Cottonwoods website and social media channels and resort information before heading up the Cottonwood Canyons. UDOT also advises drivers to adjust travel to off-peak days and times where possible.

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