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Mixed reactions from community members and groups to gondola recommendation by UDOT

Posted at 5:47 PM, Aug 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-31 19:48:02-04

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — Community members had mixed reactions over the decision by the Utah Department of Transportation to back the gondola plan up Little Cottonwood Canyon. While some agree that traffic is a problem, they don't believe building a gondola is the right move.

"I dont know where we're going to park the cars," said Sandy resident Theresea Pentilla. "It's just going to cause congestion someplace else."

Pentilla said she goes up and down the canyon often and is primarily concerned that adding a gondola will mean there may not be enough parking available. She adds that the gondola is a "no" for her.

Cottonwood Heights resident Brian Schutz believes the cost of adding the gondola will be too high of a price for the nearby communities.

"It really becomes a burden on our taxes, on our view shed, the quality of our life to have extra traffic, to fill up multi-story or multi-acre parking facilities," said Schutz. "That would just be an intrusion on what we would like to have as a nice, quiet community."

Some residents near the canyon have put up signs and banners on their homes and yards to oppose the gondola's construction.

"There was so much opposition to it, it almost looks like it was a predetermined decision to go ahead with the gondola from the start," said Cottonwood Heights resident Tim White. "I'm not sure how there could have been a more negative public opinion toward it."

One of the groups against the gondola, Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, believes its construction will not be effective enough in reducing vehicles traffic from the canyon.

"We've seen no evidence that people will ride the gondola," said WBA board member Brad Rutledge. "The road will still be open, people will still have the ability to ride and drive themselves, the cost estimates that I've heard to ride the gondola are going to be extremely expensive."

On the other end of the debate, executive director of Friends of Alta Kody Fox said he is glad UDOT has implemented some of the public's suggestions and wants to see more collaboration throughout the project.

"What we would like to see is when they’re phasing new things in, these small incremental changes, make the public aware of this change is taking place," he said. "Because it doesn’t make a lot of sense if these small incremental changes can actually really fix the problem of congestion in the canyon for us to still go and spend half a billion dollars on a gondola."

For Save Our Canyons member Carl Fisher, the reactions to the proposal has been a "mixed bag" for them. They hope the temporary public transit options that will be in place until the gondola construction is complete will remain and become the permanent solution instead.

"On one hand, we are totally opposed to the gondola because we don't see it as a solution whatsoever," he said. "On the other hand, with the phased approach that they've introduced, I think there's an opportunity for people to embrace buses in the canyons and start carpooling and see if we can't show that this can be a solution to the canyons and it will help protect the canyon."

There will be public comment until October for all concerns groups to make their voices heard throughout the process before the final decision is made.