Gondola is the top choice for Little Cottonwood Canyon traffic fix

Aug 31, 2022, 9:32 AM | Updated: Sep 2, 2022, 11:37 am

FILE -- The mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon is pictured on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021.

Kristin M...

FILE -- The mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon is pictured on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah — The Utah Department of Transportation has announced it would like to build a gondola to ease traffic problems up Little Cottonwood Canyon. 

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson has been against the gondola since it was one of the options brought forth to fix Little Cottonwood Canyon’s traffic woes. 

What’s next?

In a statement, UDOT says the gondola meets the “need and provides the highest travel reliability for the public.” The final proposal is available here.  There is now a 45-day public review period and a comment period through Oct. 17.

“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 a statement. “With numerous studies over many years as the starting point for addressing the transportation challenges in Little Cottonwood Canyon, we relied on the 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.” 

It could take years to get the funding for the gondola alternative, so UDOT is proposing there be an “enhanced bus service” for the time being. 

“The proposed phasing would include increased and improved bus service as described in the Enhanced Bus Service Alternative (with no canyon roadway widening), tolling or restrictions on single occupancy vehicles, and the construction of mobility hubs. UDOT would also proceed with widening and other improvements to Wasatch Boulevard, constructing snow sheds, and implementing trailhead and roadside parking improvements, as funding allows. These improvements will improve air quality, protect the watershed, and increase the quality of life for residents and canyon users by reducing traffic congestion as private vehicles shift to transit.”

“Currently, UDOT does not have funding to implement the proposed preferred alternative,” said Van Jura in a statement. “We are proposing the phased implementation plan to alleviate mobility, reliability and safety concerns that exist today while addressing the long-term transportation need in the canyon.”

What the gondola will look like

UDOT’s proposal would build a base for the gondola right near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. It would have about 2,500 parking spaces, and each of the gondolas would transport 35 people about every two minutes.

“The gondola can operate independently of S.R. 210, avoiding delays related to adverse weather, crashes, slide offs and slow-moving traffic,” UDOT wrote in a statement. “This alternative has the highest visual impacts but low impacts to the watershed, wildlife movement, and climbing boulders.”

The total one-time cost for construction and capital costs for the gondola is $550 million. UDOT says this includes:

  • Cost of tolling infrastructure
  • Transit parking
  • Adding snow sheds
  • Addressing trailhead parking
  • Widening Wasatch Boulevard,

UDOT also estimates that operations and maintenance will cost $4 million each year. It would cost another $3 million if the gondola was used in the summer.

The gondola was one of two options UDOT was floating as solutions to the canyon’s transportation issues. The other was an Enhanced Bus Service

This is a developing story and will be updated. 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


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Gondola is the top choice for Little Cottonwood Canyon traffic fix