The Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola is included in the long-term regional transportation plan

The Little Cottonwood Canyon Gondola is one step closer to reality.

The Wasatch Front Regional Council on Thursday approved a comprehensive long-term regional transportation plan that envisages more than 1,000 potential Wasatch Front transportation projects over the next 30 years.

The council adopted an environmental impact study from the Utah Department of Transportation detailing the costs and impacts of several proposed transportation projects in Little Cottonwood Canyon, including the proposed gondola.

The nacelle was not officially approved. The regional transport plan 2023-2050, approved on Thursday, does not provide any funding for the planned gondola or any other project.

Instead, according to the council, all “regionally significant transport projects” are listed in accordance with federal regulations.

Residents, local business owners and campaigners protested during public comment at Thursday’s meeting, calling on the council not to adopt the nacelle portion of UDOT’s environmental impact study – and expressing concern that the council’s adoption is paving the way for the nacelle go forward.

“As elected officials, it might not feel like you were heard, but we heard you,” said Dawn Ramsey, chairwoman of the Wasatch Front Regional Council, who serves as South Jordan’s mayor. “For these more than 1,000 projects, we have a responsibility to the entire region and to all communities and residents of the entire Wasatch Front, all seven counties.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Carl Fisher, CEO of Save Our Canyons, holds up a sign while waiting for his turn at the Wasatch Front Regional Council meeting on Thursday, May 25, 2023 is.

Although the Council accepted UDOT’s Environmental Impact Statement in its entirety, it did so with one caveat: by including a “statement of intent” that the Council initially supports the prioritization of Phase 1 and 2 of the UDOT proposals for Little Cottonwood Canyon, which are set out in the declaration of effectiveness. These phases do not include the nacelle.

Phase 1 of the project, due to be completed between 2023 and 2032, envisages an improved bus service, toll collection, road improvements and a mobility hub. Phase 2 would implement avalanche snow removal and trail improvements between 2033 and 2042.

Phase 3 of the project, scheduled for completion between 2043 and 2050, includes the gondola and the creation of parking lots at the base station.

The timeline included is for Council planning purposes only, as no timeline for implementation is provided in UDOT’s Environmental Impact Statement.

At Thursday’s meeting, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson tabled a motion for the council to scrap the listing of the nacelle and its associated “Phase 3” entirely, but the rest of the regional transportation plan and accompanying air quality memorandum to adopt.

The motion failed, with only Wilson and Holladay Mayor Rob Dahle voting in favor. A motion approving the plan in its entirety passed unanimously.

“The bottom line is that the gondola stays within the long-term plan of the regional transportation plan,” Wilson said Thursday. “That’s not a good fact in my view.”

“However, I believe that everyone involved now has an interest in the bus system being successful,” she continued. “That was funded by the legislature – the interchange, the bus system, the toll. I think the devil is in the details here, but now I want to help make this a productive reality.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City attorney Patrick Shea is refusing to sit past his scheduled public comment period at the Wasatch Front Regional Council meeting on Thursday, May 25, 2023.

Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini said the council knew the public would approve the regional transportation plan without the inclusion of the nacelle, but said federal rules prohibit the council from removing elements from an environmental impact statement.

If the council approved the plan without the gondola, the Federal Roads Administration would not be able to approve it later, Silvestrini said – which would likely delay the 1,000 other projects included in the plan.

“People are skeptical about the government,” Wilson said during the meeting. “When you say: ‘Comment, open computer, find out how to do it’, you invest time and sometimes your whole heart. And it’s like, you know what? We don’t listen. We can not. we are bound We are tied to a lot of legal expertise.”

Around 20 people — including a representative from outdoor retailer Patagonia; Dave Fields, President of Snowbird Ski Resort; and Alta Mayor Roger Bourke – offered their opinions on the gondola during the public comment phase of the meeting.

Time was limited to one minute for each person, but one commenter, Salt Lake City attorney Patrick Shea, stayed longer and stood in front of the council in silence until he was forced to leave by police.

“I taught a civil disobedience course at Westminster College for two years,” said Shea, who served as director of the Bureau of Land Management in 1997. “It has been 50 years since I exercised that right and I must exercise it.” Today.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City attorney Patrick Shea is refusing to sit past his scheduled public comment period at the Wasatch Front Regional Council meeting on Thursday, May 25, 2023.

Ahead of the meeting, Shea said he hopes to educate the public on Thursday about how a significant chunk of their taxpayers’ money could be spent on a gondola that he argued would benefit just two for-profit ski resorts — rather than solving other problems like z such as education and psychological support.

Though the gathering didn’t go quite as many Thursday attendees had hoped, Wilson said she appreciated the community’s “incredible” commitment to the Little Cottonwood Canyon project.

“We see that every time there’s a public gathering on this issue, a handful of people related to the ski industry come out and then the public goes, ‘Whoa, that doesn’t make sense,'” Wilson said.

She concluded that she felt the gondola was “not a solution that I think any of us should support”.

Justin Scaccy

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