LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT (EIS)
UDOT has identified two preferred alternatives to improve transportation in Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Draft EIS, the Enhanced Bus Service in Peak-Period Shoulder Lane as the alternative that best improves mobility and the Gondola Alternative B (base station from La Caille) as the alternative that best improves reliability.
In addition to the preliminary preferred alternatives, other elements have also been developed that would be combined to support each alternative. These include snow sheds (concrete structures built over the highway to keep it clear of snow in case of avalanches); mobility hubs (larger-capacity park-and-ride lots with transit service); widening and other improvements to Wasatch Boulevard; tolling or single occupancy restrictions; addressing trailhead parking and eliminating winter roadside parking above Snowbird Entry 1.
Hello Friend of Alta! As you are likely aware, UDOT has announced that it has chosen the gondola as its preferred alternative for solving the congestion issues facing Little Cottonwood Canyon. Independent polls show that nearly 80% of Utahans do not want this gondola. Over 14,000 public comments were submitted to UDOT (a record) leaving no doubt that UDOT is keenly aware of just how unpopular the idea of a gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon is. Several Mayors and other elected officials representing affected cities have taken strong positions in opposition to building a gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon as well. To say that we at Friends of Alta are disappointed in UDOT’s decision is an understatement.
Our Battle is Far from Over.
Although UDOT has selected the gondola as its preferred alternative, this battle is far from over. It’s important to understand why.
There is currently no money to build the gondola.
UDOT has stated that they do not have the funds to build a gondola. The final total MAY likely end up somewhere between $700 million to $1 Billion of taxpayer dollar. Instead, UDOT will begin with what they are calling a “phased approach.” This phased approach presents a promising opportunity for those of us who do not wish to see a gondola built. We are asking that UDOT make the public aware of when each phase is being implemented and allow for study of the effectiveness of each phase before moving on to additional phases. It is out belief that small, incremental changes can substantially reduce the traffic in Little Cottonwood Canyon by the 30% goal stated by UDOT, which would eliminate any need for something like a gondola.
How you can help.
We need all concerned individuals to continue to keep the pressure on. We recommend that you start with the following
Submit a comment to UDOT during their 45-day comment period. This will be open until October 17, 2022. Submit your comment using the link below
Write your local officials (respectfully) to let them know that you oppose the gondola. This is a statewide issue because the money will come out of the pockets of ALL OF UTAHS TAXPAYERS. Not sure where to start? Check this link out to find out who represents you and how to contact them
Friends of Alta will continue to fight for sensible, effective, and environmentally sound solutions to the congestion facing Little Cottonwood Canyon. We will continue to partner with elected officials, our partner organizations, our members, and all concerned citizens to stop this gondola from ever being built. We will see this fight through to the end and we need you to continue to use your voice to fight with us. The future of Little Cottonwood Canyon depends on us all.
Kody R. Fox
Friends of Alta
UDOT Final EIS Decision
Irreversible & Rushed Decision
There is simply no reason to invest $590 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.”
The gondola would be permanent. Once it’s built, it’s there forever. The viewscape of Little Cottonwood Canyon would be irreversibly scarred by the more than 20 towers scaling as high as 262 feet into the sky moving 40 large gondolas.
Tax-Payer-Funded, Serving Private Resorts
Why are Utah taxpayers footing the $590 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]. 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.
Common sense solutions are a fraction of the cost, scalable, and effective. These include tolling, reservations, and enhance bus service.
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]
The gondola poses significant risk to our watershed. Through its construction and greatly increased pressure on Little Cottonwood Canyon from increased visitation.
What Will it Really Cost?
The proposed budget to build the gondola comes in at approximately $590 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.
The gondola will only run for a portion of the year and will only service those going to ski Alta or Snowbird. A solution like the enhanced bus alternative would serve all the recreators in the canyon and would do so throughout the entire year at a reduced cost in comparison to the gondola.
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.
Talking points courtesy of Wasatch Backcountry Alliance
Friends of Alta Point of View
Friends of Alta supports common sense solutions to improve canyon traffic, including parking management technologies and policies, carpooling incentives, traction device requirements and enforcement, and the development of regional transportation hubs to promote enhanced busing. These common sense measures meet the goal set out by UDOT to minimize potential harm to the watershed while maintaining the infrastructure to service the whole canyon. This option is flexible and can be changed to meet changing needs for transportation in LCC.
KUTV Fresh Living
Sample Letter to Lawmakers
As your constituent, I rely on you to make decisions that have community support, improve our way of life and protect Utah’s precious scenery. That is why I am writing today to strongly oppose the Utah Department of Transportation’s (UDOT) Gondola Alternative B plan.
The massive 200-foot gondola comes with a whopping $600 million price tag, paid for by Utah residents to benefit wealthy ski resorts. This proposed solution to congestion is a tax-payer funded marketing ploy to increase visitation to those resorts and is nothing more than corporate welfare disguised as infrastructure. The casualties of this bad decision will be the watershed and pristine environment of Little Cottonwood Canyon.
There are many reasons I oppose the Gondola Alternative B project, specifically:
The gondola is too expensive and Utah taxpayers are picking up the bill:
UDOT is using our hard-earned money to fund a $600 million project. The multi-million dollar corporations that stand to benefit from the gondola should be picking up the tab. 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]. If the gondola is built, the number of cars visiting resorts will remain the same while skier visits will increase by 20%, per the EIS. Only 2-3% of weekend skiers are Utah residents, but every Utah citizen will pay approximately $175 just to build the gondola, not to mention supporting the steep operating costs. For a family of four, that is $700 for a method of transportation they will likely never use. This is corporate welfare. These wealthy companies don’t need Utah families to pay so they can profit even more.
The gondola poses a tremendous risk to the environment and vital watershed in Little Cottonwood Canyon: With a proposed 19 towers up to 262 feet tall, the gondola will irreversibly change the landscape we all know and love. It will also risk contamination of the Little Cottonwood Canyon watershed, which is responsible for providing swaths of vital water in Salt Lake Valley.
The proposed gondola fails to serve its intended purpose of reducing traffic congestion: The Little Cottonwood EIS specifically states that UDOT does not anticipate traffic volumes will decrease with their proposed gondola alternative. As stated in EIS 126.96.36.199, “daily traffic volumes would be similar to the existing conditions in 2020.” Why are we paying for something we know won’t work?
I am not alone in my objections; 80% of Utahns oppose building a gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon. As someone with great influence over the project funding, I urge you on behalf of your voters to amend or repeal Utah Senate Bill 277 and to oppose this project.