Bus rapid transit, officials have indicated, is the best hope to solve some of the Park City area’s traffic woes, a system of express buses that can bypass traffic but one that carries a price tag in the tens of millions of dollars and mountains of bureaucratic hurdles.
There might be some federal help on the horizon after U.S. Rep. Blake Moore, who represents Park City, included funding for a stretch of the project in his personal earmarks in a congressional infrastructure bill.
Moore requested $6.5 million for the system as a “member-designated project” in the INVEST in America Act, a $715 billion infrastructure bill working its way through Congress.
Moore also requested $1.2 million for a roadway connectivity project in Park City’s proposed arts and culture district.
The bill is in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and was being heard by the Rules Committee this week. The transportation committee chair, Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon, describes the bill as fulfilling pieces of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan.
It is unclear whether the bill will pass or where it stands in the broader infrastructure talks that have taken center stage in Washington in recent weeks.
Moore’s earmarks would be a notable infusion of cash for a project that local officials hope will reduce the traffic that sometimes backs up for miles and snarls routine commutes.
“Our (bus rapid transit, or BRT) initiative is the most important transit enhancement that we have been pursuing to improve mobility and relieve congestion within the current district, beyond our last mile efforts with microtransit,” Summit County Manager Tom Fisher wrote in a message to The Park Record. “We are pursuing all angles of building the funding to advance the BRT project and are grateful for the federal support from our local representative to advance this important enhancement.”
The bus rapid transit system has taken shape in recent months, though it remains in a yearslong federal environmental review. Officials have pegged the cost near $80 million. According to terms negotiated for the establishment of Summit County’s High Valley Transit District, the stretch on S.R. 248 will be pursued by Park City Transit, while the S.R. 224 leg will be pursued by High Valley Transit.
Moore’s earmark would help fund the system from Kimball Junction to the Canyons Village base area entrance on S.R. 224. The broader system is envisioned as running from outlying park-and-ride lots and serving the high-traffic destinations in the Park City area, including the mountain resorts and Old Town.
Bus rapid transit is seen as having a similar role as trains in a reduced number of stops and ability to pass stopped traffic, but with a significantly cheaper cost. The system will originate at Kimball Junction and likely at Quinn’s Junction, but it is undecided where it will stop closer to Park City.
Park City is making progress on the S.R. 248 portion, with plans for a park-and-ride lot at Quinn’s Junction, the second in the corridor along with a Richardson Flat site that sees little traffic.
The Utah Department of Transportation this summer plans to add an inbound bus lane from Quinn’s Junction to Comstock Drive on S.R. 248 as part of a larger construction project.
Moore’s earmark would be used to create a dedicated bus-only lane on each side of S.R. 224 to accommodate the bus rapid transit system, school buses and other high-capacity vehicles that are integrated with intersection signals, according to a memo requesting the funding.
“Funding will be used to complete right-of-way acquisition, construction, and intersection signal integration of the east and west side-running lanes to facilitate a significant segment of the BRT,” the memo states.
Kim Carson, High Valley Transit board of trustees president, said the district has a deal in place to use the Utah Department of Transportation’s right-of-way along S.R. 224.
County officials have applied for $25 million in federal grants as well as state funding for the project.
Moore requested about $20 million in earmarks in the bill, roughly the same as the other three Utah members of the House of Representatives.
The request for Park City’s arts and culture district would reconstruct Homestake and Munchkin roads and Woodbine Way, according to a memo requesting the funding.
The project would improve walkability to and through the planned district and connect the Park Avenue bus stop outside Holiday Village to the proposed district, according to the memo.