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Salt Lake County Council narrowly votes to formally oppose Little Cottonwood gondola proposition

Posted at 8:47 PM, Oct 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-04 22:47:20-04

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — The Salt Lake County Council on Tuesday became the latest group to formally denounce a proposal to build a gondola up Little Cottonwood Canyon.

However, the council's decision was not unanimous — in fact, the resolution to oppose the gondola plan passed by a narrow margin of 5-4.

In the past few years, the Utah Department of Transportation pitched two main ideas to solve the issue of traffic and parking during the ski & snowboard season in Little Cottonwood: a high-capacity gondola from the bottom of the canyon to the top, or an increase in bus service that would also include widening the canyon road.

The idea is backed by a group called Gondola Works, which includes both Alta and Snowbird resorts. UDOT also recently announced that it backs the gondola route, as well as proposing a toll on the road.

The council met Tuesday to discuss the idea, hear from members of the public, and vote on a resolution to recommend that UDOT drop the gondola idea from consideration.

At least one local resident, who said he's seen a 30-percent increase in all costs over the past two years, expressed concern that the expected cost of $550 million is "grossly underestimated."

Richard Snelgrove, the Salt Lake County Council member-at-large, voiced his opposition to the gondola ahead of the vote.

"I feel it's a billion dollar boondoggle," he said. "This cuts across party lines. I, as a Republican, I'm opposed to the gondola. I'm not the only one. I mean, this is a bipartisan coalition that's out to not see this gondola move forward. It's not in the public's interest."

However, other members of the council disagreed.

"This resolution is misleading, and I can't support that right now," said Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton. "People have other great ideas that are cost-effective and that would be efficient for us — bring them forward."

County Mayor Jenny Wilson supported the anti-gondola resolution, and in a press release, gave alternative solutions to canyon traffic:

  • Electric, high-quality buses with mobility hubs;
  • Tolling;
  • Parking management strategies such as ski parking reservations and enhanced smartphone app technology;
  • Multi-passenger vehicle incentives such as micro-transit, carpooling, and rideshare programs; and
  • Traction device requirements with expanded inspection hours and enforcement.

Snelgrove agreed the idea of other options that, according to the resolution, would be more economical.

"What's to be lost by trying these low cost alternatives first?" he told FOX 13 News. "Let's try those first, rather than take the billion-dollar leap."

UDOT is accepting public comments through Oct. 17.