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Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola proposal continues to spark public debate

Posted at 9:54 PM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 07:59:59-04

SALT LAKE CITY — This summer, the Utah Department of Transportation will announce their preferred alternative for fixing traffic congestion in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

In June of 2021 they whittled several options to two: a gondola from property near La Caille restaurant stopping at Snowbird and Alta, or a combined project widening the road and expanding bus service.

The gondola has become the lightning rod for public debate between a group called Gondola Works, backed by the two resorts, and Friends of Little Cottonwood Canyon, a citizen activist group opposing the gondola.

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Gondola Works argues a gondola is quiet, safe, and clean in terms of energy and emissions. Dave Fields, the President and General Manager of Snowbird, says the bussing option would be more problematic to the canyon's environment.

"UDOT estimates it would take somewhere in the vicinity of 45 acres of land out of the canyon and turn it into pavement," Fields said.

Craig Osterloh, the President of Friends of Little Cottonwood Canyon, thinks both options are too expensive and he says the Gondola in particular will drain taxpayer dollars in construction and ongoing operation while marring the natural beauty of the canyon.

"The gondola will be seen from every corner of the canyon and that's important," said Osterloh, adding that smaller actions like parking reservations at Alta and rules for tire traction have helped and could be implemented on a broader scale.

UDOT will make a choice in the form of a preferred alternative and a record of decision. That record of decision is expected in the winter after a public review period. They see the project as necessary because of long term population and traffic projections.