ST. GEORGE — Hoping to reduce traffic in Springdale and get visitors into the park faster, the National Park Service is working on a redesign of Zion National Park’s south entrance. Proposed plans are currently open to public comment.
Record amounts of visitors to the park have put a strain on existing infrastructure, leading to higher wait times to enter Utah’s most popular national park.
On one of the park’s busiest days of the year in 2016, the South Entrance Fee Station had a demand of 324 vehicles per hour, but the current fee station configuration only allows for approximately 194 vehicles per hour to be processed.
During the busiest times of the year, wait times on weekends and holidays can be as long as an hour as cars form half-mile-long lines extending into neighboring Springdale, resulting in both visitor frustration and large amounts of vehicle exhaust, according to the park service.
In response, the park is developing an environmental assessment of the proposed redesign of the South Entrance Station. In addition to reducing entrance wait times and traffic congestion, the proposal is looking to improve employee safety, develop a renewable energy source and replace faulty culverts to improve roadway conditions during weather events.
Just one additional visitor entry lane would increase the number of vehicles that can be processed by 50 percent, according to a 2016 traffic analysis by the Utah Department of Transportation. This, according to the park service, would fully accommodate park entry demands.
The proposed project calls for the reconstruction of the South Entrance Fee Station area by restructuring the immediate roadway to expedite traffic both entering and exiting the park.
Additional fee booths, traffic islands, an extra entry lane and an employee parking area would be incorporated into the design to accommodate the number of employees required at the entrance station, while also creating areas for employees protected from moving traffic.
A shade structure covering the fee booths and entry lanes would be lined with solar panels, creating enough energy to fully sustain the energy needs of the facility, according to a project proposal document.
Culverts on the north and south side of the fee stations would be rebuilt to adequately capture and channel storm water runoff in order to reduce the risk of roadway hazards.
The park is seeking public comment on the proposal until March 1. Comments can be submitted at the park’s planning website. Comments may also be submitted in writing to Superintendent, Zion National Park, ATTN: South Entrance Fee Station Reconfiguration EA, 1 Zion Park Blvd., State Route 9, Springdale, UT 84767.
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