ALTA, Utah (KUTV) — UDOT announced the gondola as their preferred option for easing congestion up Little Cottonwood Canyon on Wednesday.
There is one more step left in the process. The public will have 45 days to comment before the department releases its record of decision.
With a $550 million price tag, UDOT said the initial construction cost is the third highest of the options, but “the overall 30-year life cycle cost is the lowest."
Some opponents take issue with the price, others with the obstruction, but UDOT said the visual impacts come with low impact to the watershed and wildlife movement.
The solution to Little Cottonwood traffic varies depending on who you talk to.
“I am so excited that they came out and announced they were going to go with a gondola. It’s the right choice," said Micheal Nebeker, a resident near the mouth of the canyon.
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Nebeker said he knows the canyon well and had been skiing since he was two.
“More cars, more trucks, more buses, more traffic up the canyon is not what we need.” Nebeker said. “We don’t need to widen that road. That is a gem that needs to be preserved.”
But for Brenda Arcilesi, she said the gondola is not a solution.
“Really the best solution is to work within the parameters we have, just increase the busing and do carpooling," she said.
Josh Van Jura, UDOT’s project manager for the Little Cottonwood environmental impact statement, said he’s confident this is the gondola option they’ve proposed is the best for the canyon.
“I both personally and professionally feel that Gondola B with proposed phasing is the best short and long term solution for the canyon," Van Jura said.
Van Jura said because there are safety and mobility concerns up the road right now, and securing federal, state, and/or private funding could take years, the Gondola B plan includes a phased approach.
It would include components of the enhanced bus alternative, building mobility hubs, and tolling would be one of the early implementation items.
“To incentivize people to change to a transit based alternative which will ultimately protect the watershed, improve the air quality, and increase the quality of life for canyon users and residents,” Van Jura said.
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson does not agree with the UDOT decision.
“I’m not happy that they have given preference to a gondola but I am very pleased that UDOT has been listening to me and the community when many of us have spoken up and asked for a phased approach," she said.
Wilson said regional transit hubs and electric buses are options she would support. She’d like to implement those kinds of solutions first.
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“Before we rip up the canyon and build 262-feet towers that we harm the taxpayers to the tune of over half a billion dollars,” Wilson said.
Wilson encouraged people opposed to the gondola to submit their comments during this public comment period that ends October 17.
Wilson also said she’ll be meeting with legislators to voice her concerns. She said the county will also look at their authority as they move forward in the process.
UDOT is set to release their final decision this winter after the public comment. After that, securing funding will be a key piece moving forward.
If you’d like to comment, you can visit Little Cottonwood Canyon's website.