FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT

What does an EIS do?

  • Provides a full and open evaluation of environmental issues and alternatives to aid decision-making.
  • Informs decision makers and the public of reasonable alternatives that could meet the project purpose, avoid or minimize adverse impacts and enhance the quality of the environment.
  • Describes the positive and negative environmental effects of alternatives.
  • There will be four upcoming comment periods where participating agencies and the public can provide input on the initial range of alternatives and the methodology for alternatives screening and selection.
    • PURPOSE/NEED – Spring thru Summer 2018
      – 30-Day Comment Period
    • ALTERNATIVE DEVELOPMENT/REFINEMENT – Spring thru Fall 2018
      – Initial Alternatives 30-Day Comment Period
      – Alternatives Screening and Selection 30-Day Comment Period
    • DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT (EIS) – Winter thru Summer
      – Public Hearing and 45-day Comment Period: Summer 2019

Why is an EIS needed?

An EIS is necessary to document the potential effects of proposed improvements as per federal laws and regulations. It is needed to fulfill all required environmental clearances, allocate funding and preserve land for a future project.

What are the main steps in the EIS process and what do they involve?

  • Scoping – Identify and gather public input about items to consider in the environmental study.
  • Purpose and Need – Define a statement of goals and objectives that the study will address (purpose), and identify the existing and future conditions that need to be changed (need).
  • Alternatives Development – Develop alternatives that meet the purpose and need.
  • Alternatives Analysis – Screen alternatives based on their potential impacts and how they meet the purpose and need; gather public input.
  • Analyze Impacts – Compare impacts of screened alternatives.
  • Environmental Resource Analysis – Quantify the effects to the social, economic and natural environment.
  • Draft EIS – Report findings and gather public input.
  • Final EIS – Submit document for the final decision-making process.
  • Record of Decision – A final decision is made and documented.

What are some environmental considerations that the EIS will assess?

  • Water Quality
  • Air Quality
  • Property Impacts
  • Economic Impacts
  • Hazardous Waste Sites
  • Historic Properties
  • Land Use
  • Noise
  • Potential Construction Impacts
  • Social (e.g. emergency services, neighborhood unity and community character)
  • Wildlife
  • Wetlands
  • Visual
  • Threatened and Endangered Species
  • Minority and Low-Income Populations
  • Cumulative Impacts
  • Parks and Recreation Areas

What is the study budget and how was it funded?

In Senate Bill 277, the 2017 Legislature approved the use of $100 million for transportation improvements in areas with recreation and tourism activity that currently experience significant congestion.

With that criteria, UDOT established a prioritization process and the Transportation Commission identified four areas that warranted further evaluation [Zion, Moab, Little Cottonwood, Bear Lake].

Bear Lake Area – $8,300,000

  • Relocate Marina entrance – $5,000,000
  • Logan Road and Bear Lake Blvd – $700,000
  • Widen S.R. 30 – $1,000,000
  • Buttercup Lane – $1,600,000

Moab Area – $10,000,000

  • Downtown parking structure – $7,300,000
  • Dispersed Parking Plan (surface lots) – $2,700,000

Zion Area – $15,000,000

  • Transit from St. George to Springdale Capitol – $8,000,000
  • 10 year operation and maintenance – $7,000,000

Cottonwood Canyons – $66,000,000

  • The study was appropriated funding through the UDOT Recreation Hotspots Program. Initially, the study was granted $2 million and received an additional $3 million for a total of $5 million.

MOBILITY IMPROVEMENT STRATEGIES

What are some potential strategies the EIS team may evaluate and study to improve traffic during peak travel times?

  • Parking and transit
  • Avalanche control
  • Roadway capacity and geometry
  • Intersection improvements
  • Enforcement and operations
  • Tolling

What are potential strategies for parking and transit?

  • Enhancements to park and rides
  • New transit stops in Little Cottonwood Canyon
  • Increased transit service
  • Summer transit service in Little Cottonwood Canyon
  • Carpool areas
  • Improved trailhead amenities and formalized parking within the canyon

What are potential strategies for avalanche control?

  • Snow sheds located at White Pine Chutes, Little Pine and White Pine avalanche chutes due to the frequency of avalanches and proximity to the road of these slide paths. Avalanche control closures could be reduced with implementation snow sheds over the road in these strategic locations.
  • Snow sheds would allow avalanche debris to flow over structures that would protect vehicles underneath.
  • Other options such as bridging and road realignment are also being investigated.

What are potential strategies for roadway capacity and geometry?

  • Adding capacity to the existing roadway is a strategy under consideration for S.R. 210.
  • The EIS study area extent of S.R. 210 is characterized as a blend of an urban commuter corridor and a rural mountain roadway. Both experience congestion due to different reasons.
  • The study team will be evaluating traffic at a 2050 horizon for these sections of roadway. This means that the evaluation will take into consideration planning based on growth projections through 2050.

What are potential strategies for intersection improvements?

Modifications to the intersection alignment, geometry and potential signalization. There are four intersections under consideration:

  • The “Y” Intersection at the canyon base
  • Snowbird Entry 1 Gad Valley
  • By-Pass Road turn at Snowbird Entry #4
  • Alta Wildcat Parking Area Entrance

What are potential strategies for enforcement and operations?

  • New locations for vehicle enforcements such as snow tire/chains and four-wheel drive inspections during major snow events.
  • Operational improvements to canyon management include:
    – Addition of dedicated incident management teams to the canyon to assist in slide offs and crashes impacting traffic flow.
    – Purchase of additional snow plows to service S.R. 210 during peak travel times.

What are potential strategies for tolling?

  • Measures to reduce single occupancy vehicle traffic in the canyon during peak use.
  • Tolling is a strategy to change behavior, revenue is a by-product.
  • It is unknown at this point in the project how potential tolling revenue would be utilized or allocated.

Is one of the potential strategies to pave the Little Cottonwood Creek Trail?

  • No. As part of the University of Utah student project analysis, the Little Cottonwood Creek trail (sometimes referred to as the Quarry Trail) that runs from the Temple Quarry parking to the Lisa Falls trailhead was originally proposed to be a paved, two-way trail. After input from stakeholders, the students removed this proposal from their final report. The other trail beginning at the Temple Quarry parking lot, Temple Quarry Nature Trail, is already paved and used as a nature trail.
  • The EIS is not considering off-highway trails for improvement.

Is this list of strategies for evaluation and consideration final?

No. The study team will be reviewing the public comments received during the scoping period to see what other potential strategies to consider.  After review of the options, UDOT will conducting a screening of the strategies to determine which will be evaluated in more detail in the EIS. This will be done in the summer of 2018.

How will the team incorporate previous studies?

  • The EIS team will review previous studies and public involvement efforts carried out by a range of agencies and stakeholders regarding potential transportation improvements in the project study area, and will develop and evaluate a range of alternatives that reduce congestion and improve recreation and tourism experiences in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
  • Other studies were planning studies, this is a study to implement improvements.

Why are transportation modes such as a gondola or rail still being considered?

Per NEPA guidelines, the study team will evaluate all reasonable alternatives brought forward during the scoping period.

What is UDOT trying to accomplish with the EIS?

  • The underlying purpose of the EIS is not to increase or decrease the number of people in the canyon. Rather, the purpose is to solve a transportation issue that affects local travel and recreation and tourism experiences. The EIS will evaluate potential improvements that reduce peak travel time congestion for residents, visitors and commuters in Little Cottonwood Canyon and surrounding areas.
  • Funding granted to this project is to help improve and maintain economic and recreation opportunities in the canyon.

Are the agencies going to limit the amount of visitors in the canyon?

  • The purpose of the EIS is not to increase or decrease the number of people in the canyon. Rather, the underlying purpose is to solve a transportation issue that affects local travel and recreation and tourism experiences.
  • The USDA Forest Service has determined that many areas on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest may handle increased use, without significant resource impacts, while maintaining quality recreation experiences for visitors, and is therefore not presently considering limiting access. A current limiting factor is infrastructure, including parking, roads and restrooms. The USDA Forest Service will continue to monitor uses in the canyon, and implement additional management measures to limit resource impacts from visitor use at specific locations in the future, as determined necessary.

Will parking be restricted in other areas with the addition of new parking areas?

It is unknowable at this point of the study.  This option, along with the other strategies, will be evaluated throughout the process. Parking capacity on National Forest Service lands within the canyon is managed in accordance with the 2003 Revised Wasatch-Cache Forest Plan; primarily for watershed protection. Parking within UDOT’s existing easement for S.R. 210, and on lands that may be appropriated by the Federal Highway Administration as a result of this EIS, is managed by UDOT.

IMPLEMENTATION

What is the timeline for a possible future project?

  • Currently, the study is in the environmental phase and transportation alternatives have not yet been developed.
  • The study team can make no firm commitment to a construction project or related timeline until alternatives have been developed and evaluated.
  • Any future decisions will be made by the study partners in collaboration with each other.
  • A possible timeline could look like the following:
    – Environmental study projected completion date Spring 2020
    – Potential construction begin in summer/fall 2020