UDOT has recommended the gondola option to deal with the traffic in Little Cottonwood Canyon. There is a lot more traffic, especially on weekends during the ski season, thanks to the growing Wasatch Front population.
But skiers account for about half of the canyon usage. Hikers, fishermen and tourists account for the rest. It’s good that the Utah Department of Transportation favored the gondola option over expanding the highway, which would have eliminated most of the parking for hikers and fishermen.
But the gondola plan includes drop-off stations only at Alta and Snowbird. So, it’s clear that the gondola would mostly benefit skiers, resort workers and visitors to the two resorts.
I like to follow the money. I learned that there is a coalition of individuals, stakeholders from the ski industry, public relations firms and real estate firms that stand to make a ton of money. Whether the funding for construction of the gondola will come from state, federal or a private entity is unclear at this point, according to UDOT. And funding from the state will require approval from the Utah Legislature.
As the two private-owned ski resorts are the only ones served by the gondola, shouldn’t they be covering most, if not all, of the cost?
The gondola will definitely reduce traffic on the highway, which is maintained through state and federal funds, so it makes sense that some of the gondola construction and maintenance should be covered by state funds, but the question is how much? Is it wise to use over half a billion state or federal dollars for such a project when that money could be better spent for public education and/or other essential state government-funded services?
This is not a simple issue.