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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Plan outlines sustainable transportation solutions for Big Cottonwood Canyon

May 05, 2023 12:39PM ● By Cassie Goff

Conceptual rending of the planned re-striping of the Big Cottonwood Canyon Park and Ride for illustrative purposes only. (Photo courtesy of the Central Wasatch Commission)


he Big Cottonwood Canyon Mobility Action Plan, drafted by the Central Wasatch Commission (CWC), outlines immediate, near-term, and long-term solutions to help address the canyon’s year-round and seasonal traffic congestion issues. This plan may help guide multi-modal transportation investments.  

“There is currently a lack of convenient, frequent and reliable transit connecting to and serving the canyon,” said CWC Executive Director Blake Perez when he presented the Mobility Action Plan to the Cottonwood Heights City Council on April 4. 

A slew of sustainable transportation solutions supporting positive economic and environmental outcomes are proposed within the document. All of the potential solutions focus on reducing single-occupancy vehicles within the canyon by shifting vehicle transportation to transit.

“This is a menu of options that we could further pursue. This isn’t meant to be the solution,” Perez said. 

Those itemized menu options have been categorized into six broad categories including roadway improvements, mobility hubs and bus stops, transit service, parking management, travel demand management and administrative policy.

“Roadway improvements are ground zero for Cottonwood Heights,” Perez said.

Two improvements for the Fort Union Boulevard and Wasatch Boulevard intersection have been outlined. The first being an addition of a second left-turn lane southbound from Fort Union Boulevard onto Wasatch Boulevard (when facing the mouth of the canyon). The second option would extend the merge lane from the intersection into Big Cottonwood Canyon Road for one-half mile to the east (after the Tavaci subdivision access on the north side of SR 190). The merge extension will allow more traffic to consolidate from the four intersecting roadways into one lane of travel. 

“That has a lot to do with that mode shift of getting more people onto transit and reducing congestion,” Perez said.

An additional improvement to the Guardsman’s Pass road intersection to accommodate an exclusive travel lane has been outlined as well. 

Mobility hubs and bus stops have been identified as playing a key role in delivering good transit throughout the canyon. 

Three development options for mobility hubs and bus stops have been identified. A mobility hub within the future Gravel Pit Development (along the east side of Wasatch Boulevard between 3200 South and Fort Union Boulevard) would have the added benefit of creating an additional 1,500 parking stalls toward the mouth of the canyon. Two new mobility hubs at Solitude Mountain Resort and Brighton Ski Resort would provide busses with dedicated space to get in and out of traffic. Bus stops at major trailheads throughout the canyon would serve as a year-round transportation alternative. 

“We have to be working in tandem with the U.S. Forest Service on this front, as they’re the land managers,” Perez said.

Improvements to existing transit services at the mouth of the canyon would include re-striping the parking lot to create 150 parking stalls instead of the current 80 stalls and developing the Big Cottonwood Canyon Park and Ride to accommodate additional transit services and safer shelter. 

“(Town of Brighton) Mayor (Danial) Knopp is adamant about how important these pieces are for the transit puzzle in the region,” Perez said.

Transit service solutions primarily focus on improving bus services to the canyon with local and regional connection points. Year-round busses serving Solitude, Brighton and potentially major trailheads, have been included as a long-term solution. The addition of an exclusive transit route to Solitude through the Brighton Loop has been proposed as well. 

“This gives buses the priority and reliability of getting up there and through the bottleneck. It will decrease transit travel times,” Perez said.

UTA’s Five-Year Service Plan has identified the need to increase bus services along Route 972 (servicing Solitude and Brighton from the Midvale Fort Union Station) and Route 953 (servicing Snowbird Mountain Resort and Alta Ski Resort from the Midvale Fort Union Station). 

“There is an immediate opportunity to utilize canyon-specific funds (state-appropriated that came through this past session) to progress enhanced bus next stops,” Perez said.

In addition, the CWC would like to see third-party reservation-based shuttle services increased after Salt Lake County and Visit Salt Lake kicked this transportation solution off within the last three years. 

“This could have the potential to connect valley locations directly to the ski resorts,” Perez said.

Parking management solutions focus on reducing and eliminating roadside parking. Reservation systems for parking at the resorts and trailheads have been noted as successful proactive solutions. 

“I’ve heard from Michael Mawn up at Alta how great the parking reservation system has worked. That’s management that we need to minimize the number of cars that are going up there,” Perez said.

Mayor Mike Weichers asked Perez if Solitude has fully committed to a new reservation system for next year yet. 

Tolling, incentive bus fare structures, and transit pass options for riders have all been identified as transportation solution options under the Travel Demand Management category. 

Additional transit pass options might include seasonal passes or canyons-focused passes. 

One of Perez’s personal favorite options falls under the Administrative Policy category. A specific agency could be created to address the transportation challenges within the canyons. There are two main options for creating such an agency: a Transit District comprised of transportation partners with a strong partnership with UTA would collect tax revenue and work to commit to a certain level of service; or a Transportation Management Association (TMA) would consist of a group of members paying dues instead of collecting tax revenue.

 “They could go out and focus on businesses and encourage carpooling,” Perez said.

The Mobility Action Plan was funded by the CWC, Town of Brighton, Cottonwood Heights, Brighton Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort. Participating partners include the U.S. Forest Service, Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities, UTA and the Utah Department of Transportation. 

After being updated by the Transportation Committee on April 25, the Mobility Action Plan will be presented to the CWC Board with a final map on May 1. 

To view the full Mobility Action Plan and Big Cottonwood Canyon final map, visit the CWC’s website at: λ