When this state lost its bid to be one of seven finalists for the $4.5 billion supercollider science project, Utah's interest in the undertaking promptly faded. That's understandable, but the supercollider should not be forgotten. Utah still has a stake in seeing that it at least is located in the West.
Arizona and Colorado are both still in the running, and Utah's governor and other officials should join hands with the rest of the Western states - done informally earlier - in reemphasizing a regional approach to the project.Anything that benefits the Mountain West region in an economic and technical sense - even in a neighboring state - also will benefit Utah to some degree.
Dr. Richard J. Jacob, a former Utahn who is chairman of the Department of Physics at Arizona State University, and a member of Arizona's supercollider task force, explained it this way during a visit to Utah this week:
"The supercollider, whether in Arizona or Colorado, will have a positive effect on universities in surrounding states; it will be a world center for research. Western companies dealing in technology will have an edge in bidding on portions of the project because of their proximity."
There are good arguments for the West as a site for the supercollider. Jacob noted that the region offers growth, the fastest improvement in education systems, two years less construction time for a supercollider, and as much as a 20 percent saving in construction costs.
In June, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, better known as WICHE, adopted a resolution supporting the selection of Arizona or Colorado as the final site.
There is another reason for the West to speak with one voice. After the final site recommendation is made in November by the Department of Energy, there may be political attempts to alter the choice.
If Arizona or Colorado is the finalist, it will take the combined political clout of the West to help resist the inevitable attacks mounted by the losers. Gov. Norm Bangerter and other Western chief executives should go on record - as did WICHE - to once again make clear they back a site in the Mountain West.