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COUNTY PLANS HEARINGS ON MASS TRANSIT

Just about everything but blimps will be on the table at this month's "end all" transportation hearings, and it's not because blimps are in the air.

"We invited the blimp people, but they didn't respond," said Salt Lake Deputy Mayor Brian Hatch, adding, "seriously."Sponsored by the Salt Lake County Council of Governments, the three days of transit technology hearings are intended to give officials and the public a wide-open, wide-ranging forum on the county's mass-transit future.

Among those scheduled to make presentations are proponents and manufacturers of a 300 mile-per-hour train system, monorail, Aeromovel, Cybertrans, expanded bus and light rail.

Hatch unveiled the agenda for the hearings at the council's regular meeting Thursday afternoon, saying it offered something for everyone.

Composed of the county's 12 mayors and three commissioners, the council is attempting to map out the area's mass transit future by eliminating the improbable and impossible and focusing on the practical.

To that end, the officials have scheduled 12 hours of public hearings to run from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 21-23 at the County Commission chambers, 2001 S. State.

Officials said they will begin discussing the transportation issue in their individual communities well in advance of the hearings to help define needs and interests.

On Wednesday, Sept. 14, a special "kick-off" session will provide a broad overview of the county's transportation problems and needs, including a discussion of I-15 reconstruction.

A panel of experts has been assigned to question presenters and ensure that technical issues are addressed. The panel includes civil engineering professors Wendy O'Neill, Glen Thurgood, Hosin Lee, Peter Martin and Dave Jensen; Thayne Robson, Bureau of Economic and Business Research; Kelly Matthews, First Security Bank; and Brad Barber, state Office of Planning and Budget.

Hatch said all of the presenters will be asked to answer a number of questions in writing, including "Does it work?" and "Can we afford it?" Also, COG wants to know if similar systems are operating elsewhere and whether the systems are environmentally responsible.

Commission Chairman Jim Bradley, who is also president of the council, said officials intend to consider every feasible mass transit system and hope to reach a consensus on which deserve further study. "For this to succeed, we need public involvement," Bradley said.