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The City Journals

Gondolas or buses? Sandy City says ‘either one’ for Little Cottonwood Canyon

Sep 07, 2021 03:51PM ● By Justin Adams

The two preferred transportation alternatives were chosen because they met two of UDOT’s goals: mobility and reliability. (File photo Joshua Wood/City Journals)

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

For over a year now, the Utah Department of Transportation has been working on coming up with a solution for the traffic problems that plague Little Cottonwood Canyon during the winter months. After studies and rounds of citizen feedback, it has narrowed down to two “preferred alternatives” - a rapid bus transit system or a gondola system. 

Given that either system will originate at the mouth of Little Cottonwood, and that users will have to travel on Sandy roads to even reach that point, UDOT’s decision will obviously have a big impact on Sandy residents. 

So which option does the Sandy City Council prefer? Well, both of them. (As long as they’re done right.)

A draft letter to UDOT from Mayor Kurt Bradburn reads, “We recognize that there are pros and cons to each of the proposals and depending upon how the selected transportation plan is implemented, either alternative could have significant long-term consequences for Sandy City.”

The letter then goes on to lay out Sandy’s main concerns.

The most important issue for the city is water quality. With so much of the city’s water coming out of Little Cottonwood Creek, any major construction projects within the canyon could be potentially dangerous for the city’s drinking water supply. 

“Regardless of which transportation alternative is selected, every precaution and best management practices must be used to minimize any negative impact to the stream and the watershed, both in the design and construction of the transportation improvements,” reads the letter. 

Another one of the city’s concerns is a lack of traffic impact studies focused on the east-west corridors within Sandy City. 

A current study being done by UDOT only considers how people will travel to the new transportation hub from the north driving along Wasatch Boulevard. Of just as much importance (if not more) according to Sandy City, is analyzing the potential impacts and needed improvements to 9400 South. 

In explaining his position to the City Council during an Aug. 17 meeting, Bradburn said he “fully believes” that both a rapid bus system and a gondola will be implemented eventually. 

“In theory we can support both, but we have to see the details,” he said.

One secondary detail is whether or not the new transportation system will be accompanied by the implementation of a toll for driving up the canyon.

“We have to have things that encourage people to change their behavior. We have to have something that gets people out of their cars and into transit,” said Council member Marci Houseman, who represents the city on the Wasatch Front Regional Council. According to her, the idea of a toll road has been a consensus within all the meetings she’s attended.

Some other council members were either not yet sold on the idea or tentatively opposed.