Jul 12, 2023 - Development

Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola plan moves forward

Gondola in Utah

A rendering of a gondola tower in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Photo: Utah Department of Transportation.

The Utah Department of Transportation finalized plans for traffic-plagued Little Cottonwood Canyon — and they include a controversial $729 million gondola.

Driving the news: UDOT released its final "record of decision" on Wednesday, announcing transportation officials settled on the gondola as their solution for the road leading to two world-renowned ski resorts.

  • Cars frequently back up for miles in winter, creating hours-long waits that also flummox traffic in neighboring Sandy and Cottonwood Heights.

Why it matters: Local governments and conservation groups say the gondola is an expensive giveaway to lucrative ski businesses and special interests and will blight the rugged canyon while failing to fix the county's ski traffic problems.

Details: The new $729 million cost estimate is much higher than the $550.7 million UDOT provided in its detailed proposal last September because of inflation, the report states.

  • It's unclear when the gondola would be built; funding has not yet been allocated.
  • Until then, UDOT plans to build a parking area it calls a "mobility hub" near the gravel pit at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, and increase bus service by 2025.
  • UDOT also will implement roadside parking restrictions and tolling tentatively estimated at $20-$30 per car.
  • The gondola does not serve Big Cottonwood Canyon, also home to two ski resorts.

The intrigue: With a toll of $30 per driver, gondola tickets would need to be significantly less to compete with the cost of driving a carload of skiers, FOX 13 reported in November.

The other side: "It's asinine to us that UDOT kept the gondola in the [Record of Decision]. It's outrageous that once the gondola is operational, … bus service in Little Cottonwood Canyon would be discontinued," the conservation group Save Our Canyons posted on Facebook.


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