Salt Lake County mayor vows to fight Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola, says Legislature should fund other needs

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said she does not believe the gondola is the best option to fight congestion in the canyons — and may push congestion elsewhere.

In a Wednesday news conference, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson called on the public to fight back against the Utah Department of Transportation’s decision to move forward with a gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

The agency announced its preference for a gondola in a Wednesday morning email, but the Legislature will ultimately decide whether to fund the $592 million project. Wilson said she was pleased UDOT has agreed to implement a phased approach to combat the congestion in the canyons, but believes that the costly project could exacerbate problems in other areas.

[Related: UDOT says the gondola is the best option for Little Cottonwood Canyon, eventually]

“We implement these solutions first, before we rip up the canyon and build 262-feet towers,” Wilson said. “I have a call to action to the public, and that is: please go to the UDOT website. If you share my concerns over cost and over impact to the canyon, file a report. Tell them what you are concerned about.”

Based on the few hours Wilson had to review UDOT’s report, she said she had concerns the agency’s preferred plan would not decrease traffic — but instead push congestion further down into Cottonwood Heights.

She also worries that the gondola has severe limitations should weather conditions change, or should resorts like Alta and Snowbird change their operations.

“The gondola is not flexible; you build those towers, they’re going to be there,” Wilson said. “A busing system is. So I think there’s operational issues that may appeal to some, cost certainly should — and again, there are many of both parties that have expressed to me a deep connection to the canyon, that I share.”

The Salt Lake County Council is considering its options to prevent the gondola based on its authority over roads involved in the process, as the majority of councilmembers disagree with UDOT’s plan, Wilson said.

They also plan to meet with legislators, although Wilson doesn’t believe the plan has enough support to be funded since there are more critical needs elsewhere.

“I want to emphasize that this problem is maybe 15 days a year, perhaps 20. With a 365 day calendar that we can love and enjoy the canyon, this level of cost is excessive,” Wilson said. “This isn’t just about the emotion some of us have around this issue. This is about bottom line cost, and it’s also about investing in something that will work.”