SALT LAKE CITY — The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City is urging its members to oppose a gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon, arguing that the proposed project would harm the environment and take money that could be spent to help people in need.
“The gondola is not an option for the poor and using this kind of public funding because an option that won’t benefit anyone on a low income seems to us to be a pretty bad use of taxpayers’ money,” said Jean Hill , the director of the Catholic Diocese’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, said in an interview with FOX 13 News on Tuesday.
The diocese emailed Catholics across the state, urging them to weigh in against UDOT’s recommendation for the gondola. UDOT has an ongoing 45-day public comment period.
“We believe that any public policy should be judged by its impact on the most vulnerable. This one does horrible things for the most vulnerable,” Hill said. “Because it does absolutely nothing for them. It’s substantial funding that goes to something that will really only benefit people who can already afford to ski, first of all, and who can only afford this transportation option.”
Earlier this month, UDOT recommended gondola to alleviate traffic and congestion for Little Cottonwood Canyon transporting passengers from La Caille to Snowbird and Alta ski resorts. However, the agency suggested it should be “gradual” and allow the use of other public transport options like buses.
The gondola faced opposition from Republican and Democratic leaders, as well as members of the communities surrounding the canyon. It will ultimately be up to the Utah state legislature to decide if it should be funded. UDOT estimated costs could reach more than half a billion dollars for a gondola, but the agency argued it could be cheaper than other modes of transportation in the long run.
The two ski resorts that would benefit from a gondola, Snowbird and Alta, had no immediate comment when contacted by FOX 13 News on Tuesday.
“We welcome all public input on the Little Cottonwood Canyon Environmental Study Project. Public input is an essential part of our process. The 45-day comment period is open until October 17. After reviewing all public comments, UDOT will publish a final document. Funding will not be identified until a final decision has been made,” UDOT said in a statement.
It’s the cost that bothers the diocese, Hill said. The money could pay for free public transit for everyone or expand affordable housing options statewide.
“Budgets are moral documents. This idea of how we spend taxpayer funding, we make moral decisions here,” Hill said. “And for us, the moral decision is to put that kind of money into things that are going to benefit at least of us.”
The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City frequently weighs in on social causes and bills on Utah’s Capitol Hill, ranging from abortion and the death penalty to homelessness and housing. Under the law, churches can intervene on social issues without fear of losing their tax-exempt status. They cannot support particular political candidates.