Changes Under the Millcreek Canyon FLAP Grant Project

The Federal Lands Access Program, also known as FLAP, was established by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to improve transportation facilities that provide access to, are adjacent to, or are located within Federal lands. Emphasizing areas of high recreational use and economic generation, it supplements State and local resources for public roads, transit systems, and other transportation facilities. A majority of the lands east of Salt Lake Valley are managed by the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, a federal designation, putting them within the range of FLAP.  

In 2020 the USDA Forest Service, Salt Lake County, and the City of Millcreek applied for FLAP to explore the possibility for transportation improvements in upper Millcreek Canyon. Millcreek Canyon is considered an important community asset; its convenient location and abundant trails system make it a hotspot for bikers, hikers, and trail runners. During the summer it becomes a shady haven for family picnics and offers limitless backcountry skiing throughout the winter. The initiation of a toll system roughly 30 years ago has helped to maintain Millcreek Canyon, says CWC Stakeholders Council member Tom Diegel, but increasing population size within the Salt Lake Valley and growing desire for recreation has at times overwhelmed existing infrastructure. Trail developments focusing on dispersion and user conflict avoidance have been successful to control growing visitation numbers, but heavy auto traffic and parking congestion continue to degrade user experience and ecosystem health. 


In 2012 the Fehr and Peers Millcreek Canyon Transportation Feasibility Study proposed the implementation of a shuttle service in Millcreek Canyon as a potential transit option that would mitigate traffic, reduce need for parking, and protect the natural beauty and resources of Millcreek Canyon. The Mountain Accord Charter called for the implementation of a shuttle service in Millcreek Canyon and the CWC’s Stakeholders Council Millcreek Canyon Committee (originally the Millcreek Canyon Shuttle Committee) pursued the possibility of a Millcreek shuttle in 2019. At that time, the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest and other partners determined that Millcreek Canyon lacked the infrastructure necessary to accommodate a shuttle service. The proposed FLAP grant project seeks to remedy this. 

The proposed project and cost was presented at a Salt Lake County Open House in November of 2021, followed by a public comment period. During this period the county collected over 340 comments, which were reviewed and categorized into major themes including resource protection, bicycle and pedestrian safety, increased speeds, parking, design element considerations, shuttle system or other mass transit option, level of environmental review, and others. Comments stressed the importance of Mill Creek Canyon as a community resource for its environmental provisions as well its recreational opportunities.

The Central Wasatch Commission Stakeholders Council used this public comment period to respond to the proposed plan positively, supporting road changes to accommodate a future shuttle system and reinforce safety for canyon users. More specifically, the CWC Stakeholders Council recommended widening the roadway, maintaining the existing level of parking, adding or improving restrooms at high traffic points, and designing infrastructure capable of supporting a future shuttle service. Other recommended actions would implement or improve canyon infrastructure concerning efficiency, safety, and sustainability with consideration for local standards.


Following consideration of these suggestions and public commentary, Salt Lake County, the Forest Service, and Millcreek hope to balance competing interests in their design. The scope of the Upper Mill Creek Canyon Project includes roadway improvements between Big Water Trailhead and Winter Gate, a total of 4.5 miles. To complete all transportation improvements identified in Mill Creek Canyon, the cost estimate is $38,000,000. This FLAP project will cover the scope of work identified in the upper canyon only, between Big Water Trailhead and Winter Gate. According to their improvement timeline, the project team plans to have established a final design by March 2024, with construction scheduled to take place from spring to fall of 2025.

It is the Central Wasatch Commission’s hope that the proposed Millcreek Canyon FLAP grant project will improve safety for canyon users, ensure ecosystem protection, and promote the future implementation of a shuttle service. To read more about the Central Wasatch Commission’s stance on and involvement with this project, click here.


Written by Ella Warnick.

Photo by Madeline Pettit.



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