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Little Cottonwood Draft Environmental Impact Statement

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has identified two preferred alternatives to improve transportation in Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). In the Final EIS, UDOT will identify a single preferred alternative.

To identify the preferred alternatives, UDOT considered an alternative’s ability to substantially improve transportation-related safety, reliability, and mobility for all users on S.R. 210 from Fort Union Boulevard through the Town of Alta. UDOT also considered an alternative’s environmental impacts, which includes water quality, air quality, and visual and noise impacts, among others.

Based on the technical analysis conducted, UDOT identified the Enhanced Bus Service in Peak-Period Shoulder Lane as the alternative that best improves mobility and the Gondola Alternative B (base station from La Caille) as the alternative that best improves reliability.

The Enhanced Bus Service in Peak-Period Shoulder Lane Alternative offers bus-only shoulder lanes on S.R. 210 (from N. Little Cottonwood Road to the Bypass Road) to be used during peak travel times. With this alternative, bus service is removed from congestion and able to pass slower moving traffic in the general-purpose lane, providing direct service to each destination. Those using the bus service would have the option of parking at either the gravel pit mobility hub (located at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon) or at 9400 S and Highland, with a bus departing every 5 minutes to each ski resort. Of the alternatives examined, this alternative offers the fastest travel time, the second lowest cost and when not in use, the shoulders could be used by pedestrians and cyclists.

The Gondola B alternative would construct a base station approximately one mile from the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon (from La Caille) and offer direct service to each destination. Each gondola could hold up to 35 people and travelers could expect a cabin to arrive every two minutes. The Gondola base station includes 1,500 parking spaces, reducing the need for passengers to use bus service from the mobility hubs. The gondola alternative can operate independently of S.R. 210, avoiding delays related to snow removal, avalanche mitigation, crashes, slide offs and traffic. This alternative has the highest visual impacts but low impacts to wildlife movement, climbing boulders and the watershed compared to the other alternatives.

In addition to the preliminary preferred alternatives, other elements have also been developed that would be combined to support each alternative. These include snow sheds (concrete structures built over the highway to keep it clear of snow in case of avalanches); mobility hubs (larger-capacity park-and-ride lots with transit service); widening and other improvements to Wasatch Boulevard; tolling or single occupancy restrictions; addressing trailhead parking and eliminating winter roadside parking above Snowbird Entry 1.

Additional information on the preferred alternatives and these elements can be reviewed on the project website.

UDOT is holding a 70-day Draft EIS public comment period from June 25 until September 3, 2021. UDOT is seeking public comment on the preferred alternatives, the environmental impacts associated with each, and other transportation performance considerations. Comments may be submitted at the public hearings, through the website, email, voicemail or sending a letter to the address found in the Contact Us section of the project website.

Along with the public comment period, UDOT hosted an in-person public open house and hearing on July 13 to review the alternatives and answer questions during the open house portion, along with a virtual presentation and public hearing on July 20. Both public hearings were live-streamed on the project Facebook Group and the in-person hearing was live-streamed to the UDOT Cottonwoods Instagram. Recordings are posted on the project website.

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