UDOT Identifies Preferred Alternative for LCC EIS

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UDOT announced the Gondola B option as its preferred alternative at the end of August. While it may have been a harbinger of the end of a record breaking heat wave along the Wasatch, that’s about the best we can say about it. There’s still time to submit public comments to UDOT on the final decision until October 17, but we are already looking ahead to the next phase of the process. UDOT’s preferred alternative ultimately moves to the legislature where the outcome of the years-long project will finally be decided. Now is the time to start talking to your elected representatives to let them know what you want for the future of the Central Wasatch mountains.

Please use the action form to get started today.

Here are some talking points to include in your comments to UDOT and elected officials:

Irreversible & Rushed Decision

There is simply no reason to invest $550 million in a permanent project with so many unanswered questions.

If common sense could prevail, we would implement cost-effective and environmentally-friendly options such as enhanced busses, tolling, reservations and enforcement of traction laws.

We have seen parking reservations work throughout the Wasatch in the last few years. Tolling has proven to be an effective solution in Millcreek Canyon.

As Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said, these are “common-sense solutions that are fiscally sound.”

Tax-Payer-Funded, Serving Private Resorts

Why are Utah taxpayers footing the $550 million bill for a problem two private businesses created and for a solution that will only benefit those two businesses?

As we know, resort executives stand to gain the most from a gondola and have been behind the majority of pro-gondola messaging. 

They view the gondola as a tax-payer-funded marketing ploy to increase visitation to their businesses.

UDOT’s EIS states, “The [gondola] would provide an economic benefit to the ski resorts by allowing more users to access the resorts.” [Ch. 6]

Ignoring Local Public & Political Opinion

80% of Utahns oppose the gondola, according to a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll. 

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, Sandy Mayor Monica Zoltanski and many other elected officials agree.

“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, common-sense solutions that are fiscally sound,” Wilson said at the Truth About the Proposed Gondola event in June.

With no trailhead or backcountry access, the gondola is far from a solution that benefits all of LCC’s users throughout the year.

Not a Convenient Solution

If the gondola is built, your ski day will consist of parking off-site (or paying a premium for one of the limited parking spots near the base), taking a bus to the base station then riding the gondola 31 minutes to Snowbird or 37 minutes to Alta.

And then doing it all in reverse order at the end of the day.

How can it be assured the gondola will be used and actually reduce cars in the canyon?

For the gondola strategy to be effective, there will need to be a major change in public habits.

With no plan by UDOT to limit cars (it is our understanding they plan to implement bussing until the gondola is built but not continue the program afterward) or any analysis of demand, the original issue of traffic is not being solved. It will simply funnel more visitors to the resorts.

Increased Visitation Stress on LCC

If those invested in the gondola are so interested in preserving Little Cottonwood Canyon, the first thing they should do is support a capacity/visitor management study to better understand how many visitors LCC can support.

As our friends at Students for the Wasatch pointed out, if the gondola is implemented, the number of cars visiting resorts will remain the same while skier visits will increase by 20%, per UDOT’s EIS.

The EIS states, “The [gondola] would provide an economic benefit to the ski resorts by allowing more users to access the resorts.” [Ch. 6]

What Will it Really Cost?

The proposed budget to build the gondola comes in at approximately $550 million. But many estimate that number would ultimately come in closer to $1 billion. 

We know projects of this size tend to go way over budget. Our new airport (which could use a gondola from Terminal B) was budgeted for $1.8 billion and ended up costing more than $4 billion.

If the gondola is built, it would cost $10.6 million annually just to operate. Plus, UDOT estimates an additional $12.5 million in capital costs, expected by 2037, followed by $16.5 million by 2051, according to the Deseret News.

Is a Gondola Even Necessary?

How many days per winter are you in a complete standstill in Little Cottonwood Canyon? No doubt the red snake is real. But real enough for an expensive, permanent gondola?

Plus, the gondola will not run when howitzers are active during avalanche mitigation in the lower canyon from Lisa Falls to Monte Cristo.

And we can’t even think of an argument for the gondola to be operating for the other eight months of the year.

Preserving the Beauty of LCC

Little Cottonwood Canyon is a true treasure of our local environment and attracts skiers, climbers and hikers from around the world to enjoy its beauty.

Constructing more than 20 towers reaching 200 feet tall and stretching eight miles through the heart of LCC would destroy the canyon’s natural beauty.

Altering the canyon’s footprint will also destroy popular climbing and hiking areas including Alpenboch Loop Trail.

Push Traffic onto Wasatch Blvd.

The gondola will not solve traffic issues. 

It will simply push traffic out of Little Cottonwood Canyon onto Wasatch Blvd, I-215 and surrounding neighborhoods in the Cottonwood Heights community. 

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