Dec 12, 2023 - News

Salt Lake City joins federal lawsuit challenging UDOT

Illustration of the Salt Lake City & County Building with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Salt Lake City and Sandy filed a joint lawsuit against the Utah Department of Transportation and other government agencies in federal court on Monday for allegedly failing to adequately review the full environmental impacts associated with transportation projects proposed for Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Driving the news: The municipalities are challenging an environmental impact study released by UDOT in July, which includes the agency's approval of a $729-million gondola aimed at mitigating ski traffic in the canyon during the ski season.

  • The plaintiffs are asking the court to halt transportation developments in the canyon until a new environmental assessment can be completed.
  • Of note: The Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and Sandy is also named as a plaintiff. The U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Highway Administration are listed as defendants.

Details: The complaint alleges the agencies did not sufficiently study how the transportation projects would impact the drinking water supply.

  • "The entirety of Little Cottonwood Canyon is a critical drinking water source protection area for the Salt Lake metropolitan area," per the lawsuit.

Between the lines: The lawsuit comes amid staunch opposition to UDOT's decision to move forward with the gondola.

The latest: The nonprofit Canyon Guard led a lawsuit filed last week against UDOT over the gondola, FOX 13 reported.

What they're saying: "Clean, safe drinking water is not something we take for granted — and we will take every step necessary to ensure this resource is considered and protected for residents throughout the valley," Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a statement.

The other side: "We have not yet reviewed the details of the litigation and cannot comment on specifics," UDOT spokesperson John Gleason said in a statement.

  • Gleason noted the legal challenges could delay UDOT's implementation of increased bus service in the canyon planned for the 2025-26 ski season.
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