Letter: Recent traffic in Big Cottonwood Canyon begs the question: Why is UDOT studying the roadway in Little Cottonwood?

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Traffic in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Feb 16, 2021.

On Nov. 11, with only two ski resorts open in northern Utah, the driving, parking, and skiing in Big Cottonwood Canyon were among the most congested ever.

Seventy-five roadside parking violations were written by UPD (the violation fee rises to $150 next month!). No resorts were open in Little Cottonwood or Park City, so the triple crowd migrated to Big Cottonwood. This lateral movement illustrates that any event, in any canyon, has ripple effects across all the central Wasatch canyons. The canyons are the spider’s web of connections. If any strand is disturbed, the whole network vibrates or collapses. Yet, the Legislature, through UDOT, has told us through the Little Cottonwood Environmental Impact Statement (LCC-EIS), that they have chosen not to meet the NEPA requirement of studying, and solving, connected and cumulative issues. We will pay for this omission in the long term.

Traffic at the intersection into Big Cottonwood backed up for over a mile on Nov. 11. The LCC-EIS preparers put on blinders and refused to accept responsibility for the congestion leading to these canyons because their self-imposed study area ends at the intersection at Big Cottonwood. They have declined to recognize even one car that backs-up when approaching the intersection.

UDOT self-selected a painfully small study area. To study the congestion, one logically looks at the source of the congestion, not just at the congestion. When a cardiologist looks at clogged arteries, they investigate the source of the plaque and then work to clear and prevent future blockage.

The traffic situation on Nov. 11 reminds us to ask, why is UDOT studying the roadway in Little Cottonwood? UDOT states, “to substantially improve roadway safety, reliability, and mobility,” as if this were a training exercise in engineering. Nov. 11 illustrates the purpose of roads is to move people through, then off, the roadway, not to train engineers.

Kirk Nichols, Salt Lake City

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