Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons, UT Awarded Lions Share of $100-Million Fund to Remedy Traffic Congestion

Steven Agar | | Industry NewsIndustry News
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The canyons on a powder day, or weekend, can be a nightmare. Credit: Wasatch Rider

After a fierce statewide battle for $100 million that the Legislature pegged to reduce traffic congestion at crowded recreational areas, Little and Big Cottonwood canyons won the lion’s share of the jackpot Friday, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

The Utah Transportation Commission voted to give them $66 million of the total, or $2 of every $3 available. Other smaller winners were Zion National Park, $15 million; Moab, $10 million; and Bear Lake, $8.3 million.

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Is the best way to spend $66m? Credit: Deseret News
Last year, the Legislature decided to borrow $1 billion through bonds to accelerate highway projects statewide. It set aside $100 million of that for projects that have a “significant economic impact associated with recreation and tourism” and would help remedy significant congestion. Lawmakers assigned the transportation commission to decide where to spend it — and local government officials from around the state lobbied for slices.

Areas that had lobbied hard for funding but finished out of the running include American Fork Canyon, Logan Canyon, Ogden Canyon, Powder Mountain, scenic State Road 12 near Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Lake Powell, Brian Head and Joe’s Valley Reservoir.

The commission last year narrowed the list to the four areas that eventually received money. But the previous action was tentative, and the Utah Department of Transportation spent much of the past year evaluating whether they indeed were the best areas to spend money, and how to properly divide the $100 million.

“There’s a variety of things we’re looking at there” in an ongoing environmental impact study about how to reduce congestion, said Shane Marshall, deputy director of UDOT. He said most efforts are focused on Little Cottonwood, although the department is also looking at needs in Big Cottonwood.

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