FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT
- Provides a full and open evaluation of environmental impacts and alternatives to aid decision-making.
- Informs decision makers and the public of reasonable alternatives that could meet the project purpose, avoid or minimize adverse impacts and maintain the quality of the environment.
- Describes the positive and negative environmental impacts of alternatives.
- Identifies mitigation measures for potential environmental impacts.
An EIS is necessary to document the potential effects of proposed improvements as per federal laws and regulations. It is needed to fulfill all required environmental clearances, allocate funding and preserve land for a future project.
- Scoping – Identify and gather public input about items to consider in the environmental study.
- Purpose and Need – Define a statement of goals and objectives that the study will address (purpose), and identify the existing and future conditions that need to be changed (need).
- Alternatives Development – Develop alternatives that meet the purpose and need.
- Alternatives Analysis – Screen alternatives based on their potential impacts and how they meet the purpose and need; gather public input.
- Analyze Impacts – Compare impacts of screened alternatives.
- Environmental Resource Analysis – Quantify the effects to the social, economic and natural environment.
- Draft EIS – Report findings and gather public input.
- Final EIS – Submit document for the final decision-making process.
- Record of Decision – A final decision is made and documented.
- Water Quality
- Air Quality
- Property Impacts
- Economic Impacts
- Hazardous Waste Sites
- Historic Properties
- Land Use
- Potential Construction Impacts
- Social (e.g. emergency services, neighborhood unity and community character)
- Threatened and Endangered Species
- Minority and Low-Income Populations
- Cumulative Impacts
- Parks and Recreation Areas
- In Senate Bill 277, the 2017 Legislature approved the use of $100 million for transportation improvements in areas with recreation and tourism activity that currently experience significant congestion.
- With that criteria, UDOT established a prioritization process and the Transportation Commission identified four areas that warranted further evaluation, including Little Cottonwood Canyon.
- Little Cottonwood Canyon was granted $66 million in funding.
The underlying purpose of the EIS is not to increase or decrease the number of people in the canyon. Rather, the purpose is to solve a transportation issue that affects local travel and recreation and tourism experiences.
UDOT’s purpose for the EIS is reflected in one primary objective: substantially improve transportation related safety, reliability, and mobility on S.R. 210 from Fort Union Boulevard through the town of Alta for all users on S.R. 210. The EIS evaluated potential improvements that reduce peak travel time congestion for residents, visitors and commuters in Little Cottonwood Canyon and surrounding areas.
Funding granted to this project through Senate Bill 277 (2017) is to help improve and maintain economic and recreation opportunities in the canyon.
TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT STRATEGIES
In identifying the selected alternative and sub-alternatives, UDOT considered public and agency input during the scoping process and during the alternatives development, screening, and refinement process as well as comments received on the Draft EIS, Final EIS, and supplemental information reports. UDOT then identified the selected alternative based on its transportation performance, cost, and impacts to the natural and built environment, and documented this process in the Final EIS and supplemental information reports.
Gondola Alternative B, with phased implementation, overall best meets the project purpose and need and the short and long term transportation needs for the canyon.
The gondola provides the highest travel reliability, as it can operate independently of S.R. 210, avoiding delays related to adverse weather, crashes, slide offs, and slow moving traffic. While the gondola does have high visual impacts, it has low impacts to the watershed, wildlife movement, and climbing boulders, along with low operations and maintenance costs. With all parking at the base station, a bus transfer from a mobility hub would not be needed.
Full implementation of Gondola B in Phase 3 depends on available funding.
When implemented, Phase 1 will include:
- Improved and increased bus service scaled to meet demand (with no canyon roadway widening)
- Constructing resort bus stops and a mobility hub at the Gravel Pit
- Winter roadside parking restrictions
Increased bus service, tolling and resort stops will be assessed further for Big Cottonwood Canyon in Phase 1.
Phase 1 is anticipated to be operational in the fall of 2025.
Based on available funding, Phase 2 improvements will include:
- Widening and other improvements to Wasatch Boulevard
- Constructing snow sheds
- Trailhead parking improvements
UDOT would implement a phased approach for Wasatch Boulevard, starting with the Imbalanced-lane Alternative but would purchase the right-of-way to accommodate the Five-lane Alternative in the future.
The need for the additional northbound lane on Wasatch Boulevard would be based on when the level of service (LOS) on the roadway and/or intersections reaches LOS E or greater.
Implementation of Gondola Alternative B in Phase 3 is dependent on available funding.
During this phase, UDOT will construct a base station with 2,500 parking spaces near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, where all users would travel directly to the base station without needing to take a bus from a mobility hub.
Each gondola cabin would hold up to 35 people, and travelers could expect a cabin to arrive every two minutes.
Once the gondola is operational in Phase 3, bus service in Little Cottonwood Canyon would be discontinued.
Based on public input during the 2018 and 2019 scoping periods, UDOT identified 105 concepts for evaluation, as summarized in Appendix A of the Alternatives Development and Screening Methodology and Preliminary Concept Report.
UDOT evaluated the 105 concepts in the Alternatives Development and Screening Report and provided a public comment period from June 8-July 10, 2020.
Based on comments received during that period, UDOT identified 19 new alternatives and/or refinements to previous alternatives that were not considered in the June 8 screening report and published these in the Alternatives Development and Screening Report Addendum.
In Phase 1, approximately 230 roadside parking spots will be eliminated during the winter near the ski resorts as there would be sufficient parking in the valley to accommodate users.
In Phase 2, roadside parking within 1⁄4 mile of each trailhead below Snowbird Entry 1 would be eliminated with trailhead improvements at White Pine, Lisa Falls, Gate Buttress, and the Bridge (new trailhead).
UDOT has selected the Snow Sheds with Realigned Road Alternative to reduce roadway avalanche hazards. There will be two snow sheds to cover the White Pine Chutes, White Pine and Little Pine avalanche paths.
The White Pine Chutes and White Pine snow shed would be 2,424 feet long, and the Little Pine snow shed would be 770 feet long to help ensure that avalanche flows pass over the top of the shed.
The existing road would be realigned to be closer to the mountain side in order to reduce the amounts of fill needed behind the snow sheds as well as to improve curve radius and sight distances inside the snow sheds.
Snow sheds would be implemented in Phase 2, based on available funding.
The EIS study area of S.R. 210 is characterized as a blend of an urban commuter corridor and a rural mountain roadway. Both experience congestion due to different reasons and the study team evaluated traffic at a 2050 horizon for these sections of roadway. This means that the evaluation took into consideration planning based on growth projections through 2050.
UDOT evaluated several alternatives for roadway improvements and documented this in 22.214.171.124 Preliminary Alternatives Evaluation – Roadway Alternatives of the Alternatives Development and Screening Methodology and Preliminary Concept Report.
Alternatives evaluated include:
- Double stacking
- S.R. 209 roundabout
- Reversible lanes
- Peak-period shoulder lane
UDOT would achieve this by tolling. The purpose of the toll is to incentivize transit use and reduce the use of personal vehicles going to the ski resorts during the winter by 30%.
UDOT evaluated measures that would encourage visitors to use any of the transit alternatives (buses, gondola, cog rail) instead of driving personal vehicles. Tolling will be implemented with any of the alternatives once a low cost transit system is operational. Tolling would only be implemented during the winter on peak use days when congestion levels are high.
The exact amount of the toll has yet to be determined, but the initial toll could range from $20 to $30 during the peak hours with possible variations based on the time of day and the day of the week. The amount would be varied to achieve the necessary level of traffic reduction.
Over time, the cost of the toll could vary substantially from this range. Tolling would be focused on the area of S.R. 210 around the ski resorts that would be served by the proposed transit with the action alternatives.
No. As part of the University of Utah student project analysis, the Little Cottonwood Creek trail (sometimes referred to as the Quarry Trail) that runs from the Temple Quarry parking to the Lisa Falls trailhead was originally proposed to be a paved, two-way trail. After input from stakeholders, the students removed this proposal from their final report. The other trail beginning at the Temple Quarry parking lot, Temple Quarry Nature Trail, is already paved and used as a nature trail.
The EIS did not consider off-highway trails for improvement.
The Draft EIS and Final EIS evaluated five build alternatives and, for comparison purposes, a No-action alternative. Based on comments received on the Draft EIS, slight modifications to the alternatives were made between the Draft and Final EIS but the changes were not substantial. UDOT did not develop any new alternatives after the release of the Final EIS.
The Record of Decision (ROD) identifies the selected alternative and is the final step in the EIS process to environmentally clear an action for implementation.
The EIS team reviewed 19 previous studies related to transportation in the canyon and the public involvement efforts carried out by a range of agencies and stakeholders regarding potential transportation improvements in the project study area.
After review of previous studies and based on public input received during the public scoping periods in 2018 and 2019, UDOT developed and evaluated a range of alternatives that reduce congestion and improve recreation and tourism experiences in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
UDOT will implement travel demand management strategies to reduce the personal vehicle traffic by 30% (see How is UDOT going to manage travel demand?).
During the EIS process, UDOT and the USDA Forest Service (a cooperating agency in preparing the EIS) considered the visitor carrying capacity of the canyon. The USDA Forest Service advised UDOT on the expected impacts to National Forest System (NFS) lands and forest resources in accordance with the 2003 Revised Forest Plan: Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
For this EIS, a visitor capacity analysis was not performed. Through its implementation and monitoring of the management protocols and objectives in the Forest Plan, the USDA Forest Service determined that with construction and sustained operations and maintenance of infrastructure designed to accommodate current and future visitor demands, many areas on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest can handle increased use, without substantial resource impacts while maintaining a quality recreation experience for visitors.
Neither the Phase 1 improved and increased bus service nor the Phase 3 gondola will stop at trailheads. Having dispersed recreation and bus trailhead stops would allow more people to access the forest and substantially increase use at the trailheads. In the future, if the USDA Forest Service identifies a need to increase transit service and thus increase the number of recreationists at the trailheads, it can work with UTA and/or others to evaluate transit service independent of this EIS process.
Recognizing that safety, mobility and reliability are issues on S.R. 210 today, UDOT will implement Gondola B in phases.
With the funding granted by Senate Bill 2 (2023), Phase 1 planning and design is expected to begin this summer and includes coordinating with the USDA Forest Service and the Federal Highway Administration for the required permitting and easement acquisitions, identifying a bus service provider, procuring buses and tolling equipment, and designing a mobility hub and resort bus stops at Snowbird and Alta.
Phase 1 is anticipated to be operational in the fall of 2025. Phases 2 & 3 are dependent on available funding.