Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Group touts gondola through Ketchum

Committee plans to seek public input on transportation options

Express Staff Writer

With Sun Valley Co. having filed an application to develop 140 acres at the River Run base of Bald Mountain, the idea is once again being touted to connect that property to Sun Valley Village via a gondola.

Peter Everett, Mountain Rides Transportation Authority board chairman, spoke last week to both the Ketchum and Sun Valley city councils, accompanied at both meetings by Wally Huffman, Sun Valley Co. director of resort development.

The pair were speaking on behalf of the newly formed Community Connector Committee, which is looking into "innovative options" for moving people between River Run, Ketchum and Sun Valley Resort, as well as throughout the Wood River Valley.

While introducing the new committee, Everett assured city officials that the group would not be making final decisions, but would seek public input about the best transportation options. Possibilities include buses fueled by natural gas and a fixed-rail trolley system.

However, Everett made it clear that running a gondola along Sun Valley Road, down Ketchum's Fourth Street and south to River Run is a preferred alternative.

Building a gondola between the two cities is part of Sun Valley Resort's master plan, although that design has called for the gondola to run down the back side of Dollar Mountain, across state Highway 75 in the vicinity of the Reinheimer Ranch and over to River Run. Since then, the plan has changed, shifting the path of the gondola through downtown Ketchum, which could stimulate economic activity.

"Surprisingly, a gondola and a trolley system would cost around the same," Everett told the Ketchum City Council on Monday, Aug. 17.

Everett said the gondola has an advantage over a trolley in that the cabins could not get stuck in traffic and that passengers would not have to wait for the next trolley car.

No council members from either city expressed support for any of the transportation methods, though they did offer encouragement to the overall goal of the group in providing a more efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to driving.

Everett said paid parking in downtown Ketchum could entice people to use other transportation options.

Jon Duval:

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