Salt Lake County public comment letter to UDOT on Little Cottonwood Canyon EIS

In response to UDOT’s “Final Little Cottonwood Canyon Environmental Impact Statement,” Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and five Salt Lake County Council members have submitted their public comment letter to UDOT.  Read the full comment letter here.

This letter details the framework for a Common-Sense Solutions Approach for Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC) and fundamental issues with the gondola and UDOT’s final EIS recommendation. Key points from the comment letter are highlighted below. 

Framework for Common-Sense Solutions Approach

  • Investment in the Enhanced Bus Alternative with electric buses
  • Mobility hubs
  • Tolling infrastructure plus other travel demand management strategies, including vehicle occupancy restrictions, resort parking reservations, and enhanced smartphone app technologies
  • Multi-passenger vehicle incentives such as micro-transit, carpooling, and rideshare programs
  • Increased enforcement of UDOT’s Traction Law, together with expanded hours of traction device inspection operations
  • Potential increased canyon roadside parking fees. Supplemented with increased parking violation enforcement                                      

Fundamental Issues with Final EIS Recommendation

  • The Common-Sense Solutions approach is a variation on UDOT’s “phased approach.” This comprehensive and coordinated approach will solve the traffic congestion problem in LCC without the need for a gondola. 
  • The Common-Sense Solutions approach will:
    • Preserve existing recreational opportunities and the magnificent visual experience of LCC, at a lower initial capital cost; and 
    • Allow us to move forward with solutions while providing flexibility to see what works and allowing for a change in course if circumstances warrant. The gondola fails to provide that opportunity for long-term flexibility. Once the shovels are in the dirt for the gondola, any realistic opportunity to shift gears and adopt another major system will have passed.
  • We should take time to invest in pragmatic and adaptable solutions that offer the ability to pivot. That’s the smarter, more fiscally prudent approach for a 50+year highly complex infrastructure project. 
  • We’d rather see common-sense solutions change driving habits than change LCC’s natural landscape.
  • The gondola will have a devastating impact on LCC’s world-renowned views. The majesty of LCC should not be permanently marred by 22 gondola towers (with additional stations) scattered along the 8-mile stretch of the treasured, scenic byway. At least one of those towers measures 262 feet, the equivalent of a 19-20 story building.

Salt Lake County remains extremely grateful for the four years of hard work that UDOT’s staff and all stakeholders, partners, and members of the public have committed to this effort.  

However, it took millennia for glaciers to carve the unique and breathtaking views of Little Cottonwood Canyon. As the comment letter asks, “doesn’t it make sense to spend a bit more time exploring the efficacy of less invasive and more practical solutions before we permanently rip up our cherished canyon?”

Those who drafted this comment letter strongly encourage UDOT to reassess its findings in the Final EIS and adopt this smarter, more fiscally prudent, and environmentally sound option.