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The Jeremy Ranch roundabout construction will wreak havoc on school traffic

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Park City Schools start in less than 24 hours, and the Jeremy and Pinebrook roundabout construction looks like a Syrian war zone. Unfortunately, that’s not unexpected.

In a March 19th interview on KPCW, Summit County Public Works Director Derrick Radke said, “The way the specifications are setup so that the contractor has to be done paving by the first of October. Given normal construction slips, if they are done by mid-October, we still have good enough weather to pave.”

That was the plan with a mid-May start. Roundabout construction actually started a little more than a month later than expected. So, I’m hoping for a warm Fall and a Christmas christening.

Whether the construction crews finish in mid-October or stretch it toward the baby-Jesus’ birthday, one fact remains… The impacts of this project are going to be disruptive to the entire Park City community.

The project will impact everyone who lives in Jeremy and Pinebrook, anyone who goes to school at Jeremy, anyone who teaches at Jeremy, anyone who teaches or attends Weilenmann, every student who rides a bus in the Park City School District, and any teacher who’s classroom has a student who rides a bus in the school district.

Everything and everybody will be behind — for months.

Summit County may look at the Summer so-far and believe that everything is going fine with traffic changes. It has been OK because there is little traffic. However, the school year is another animal. There is no Summer traffic in Jeremy or Pinebrook — except for I-80 traffic coming from Salt Lake around 5 PM. Come this Tuesday (and Wednesday for Weilenmann) the 8 AM school traffic will impact everyone in Jeremy and Pinebrook.

Anticipated impacts of Jeremy Ranch Roundabouts

I believe there will be five key areas impacted. The off-ramp from I-80 into Jeremy is often backed up on a typical school day. However, with roundabout changes, this off-ramp is now one lane (instead of two). Expect it to be backed up onto I-80 (impact A on the map).

The second impact area (Impact B on the map) is traffic that is trying to either enter I-80 West or go to Jeremy Ranch Elementary from I-80 or Pinebrook. This traffic will likely back-up and impact Homestead Road and I-80 off-ramp traffic.

Impact C will cause issues leaving Jeremy Ranch Elementary. Previously, there were two lanes at the intersection of Homestead and Rasmussen roads — one for people turning left and one for people going straight or right. Now there is one, tight lane. The reduction to one lane will slow the exodus from the school and likely cause an extreme back-up.

The fourth impact (D on the map) is related to parents going to Weilenmann on Wednesday (their first day of school). To get there, they either need to get off I-80 at Summit Park or go through a gauntlet at Quarry Village (either the official detour or the Quarry Village cut-through). I think the gauntlet is going to be hell.

The fifth impact will be to busing across the district. Because Park City School buses have not obtained the power of flight, they will be subject to the same delays as anyone in a car. Jill Gildea, the Park City School Superintendent stated, “Due to the roundabout construction as Jeremy Ranch, we anticipate transportation delays at all schools this year.” Because the same school buses are used throughout the district, it will be interesting to see the district-wide impacts on school start times.

Summit County’s recommendation to help alleviate the issue is to carpool. Maybe a few people will do that, but I won’t hold my breath. My advice is to leave early and plan on practicing Serenity Now through at least Halloween. If you live in certain parts of Jeremy Ranch (areas behind the school), biking or walking to school may make sense.

What I don’t understand is the rush to start and finish this project. Why didn’t Summit County break the two roundabouts into two projects? They could have completed the Pinebrook side, which was actually the more significant congestion point (5 PM traffic from SLC) in year one. Then in year two, complete the Jeremy side. That would have given them a better chance of completing the projects in the summer and would have minimized impacts during the school year.

Second, this project got a late start, so why didn’t they postpone it? In March, Summit County was talking about utility working beginning in April and dirt-moving in mid-May. Instead, utility work started in mid-June and dirt began moving during the third week of June. If the county was insistent on doing two roundabouts at once, why not push the project to 2020? They could have started in April, had minimal impact on schools in May, and finished in early September. Yes, there would still be impacts, but they would be reduced.

Third, the rush to complete the project may lead to a less optimal outcome. Jennifer Terry, who has worked hard for a decade on pedestrian passages under I-80 tried to encourage Summit County to rethink their sidewalks on the Pinebrook side of I-80. She was told that they were moving forward and would not consider anything else. That’s not the right attitude for something that is planned to last until 2050.

Regardless of history, we are where we are. If Summit County thinks they heard complaints on Kilby Rd, they probably haven’t heard anything yet. There’s nothing like hundreds of parents complaining in unison. Ask the School Board about that one.

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe it will go fine. We’ll know beginning tomorrow morning — and live with whatever it is for the rest of the Fall.

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Walt

How did it go this morning?


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