University of Utah engineering students study traffic in Little Cottonwood Canyon, make suggestions for the future

LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah - If you've ever tried to drive up or down Little Cottonwood Canyon on a busy ski day, you know how crowded the road can get.

With Utah's growth predictions, the Granite Community Council asked the Engineering Department at the University of Utah to study the issues and come up with a 50 year plan to keep traffic flowing.

It was a perfect assignment for the annual Capstone Project.

"Help design something whether it be like we did this time a canyon transportation system or a wastewater treatment plant or something, this is a required course for them at the senior level, it's usually one of the last courses they take in our curriculum," Associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Steven Bartlett said.

So 17 of his senior students took the challenge.

Their main finding is that the key is getting the same number of people up the canyon in fewer vehicles.

Better planning and possible incentives should be used to discourage one or two people in a car while encouraging more carpooling and use of canyon shuttles and the UTA ski buses.

Another idea is to install avalanche sheds over the road where avalanches are known to come down.  They have been successful in Colorado and many other areas.

"On some of the snow days where there's avalanche control if we had avalanche sheds we could continue to leave SR 210, Little Cottonwood Canyon road open and traffic could still travel up the canyon," civil and environmental engineering student Savanah Whitaker said.

Another suggestion is to charge user fees for Little Cottonwood Canyon like those who go up Millcreek Canyon.

All of the money would go toward efforts to manage the traffic in the best possible way.