Facebook Twitter

Key to Games traffic flow? Computers

SHARE Key to Games traffic flow? Computers

In some ways, the planners of the 2002 Winter Games and the athletes who will come to Utah have a lot in common.

When those three weeks finally come, both will have spent years getting ready for a once-in-a-lifetime performance in the world's spotlight.Not the least of which are the transportation planners, who face the prospect of moving 175,000 to 225,000 spectators through the valley each day of the three-week long Olympics.

How to make the world feel welcome in Salt Lake City?

Part of the transportation plan involves Intelligent Transportations Systems (ITS), a technology that uses computers to help manage traffic, said Martin Knopp, Olympics operation engineer with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

By 2002, officials hope to have three transportation control centers in operation that will gather regional information and keep the flow of cars through the valley steady, Knopp said.

Programming streams of traffic throughout the region, as well as regulating interstate onramp traffic, are part of the strategy.

Knopp, who spoke with officials from the Utah Transit Authority and Olympic transportation committee, shed some light on the 2002 transportation plan at the second annual Olympic Public Safety and Legal Summit Friday.

Besides adding radars, cameras and computers to monitor the street scene, more than 1,000 buses will be borrowed from cities throughout the Western United States to keep the crowds moving between shuttle buses, park-and-ride stations, and light-rail stations.

The north-south light-rail segment from Sandy to downtown Salt Lake City should be completed before the Olympics, said David Huber, operations director for UTA.

Hopefully, the west-east segment from the airport to the University of Utah Olympic Village will be done too, Huber added.

As officials link the venues, they keep in mind the differences in settings, said Tom Halleran, SLOC transportation director.

To get to the ice sheet in Ogden, for example, spectators could park in the spaces available at Weber State University. But to get to the Delta Center, spectators would be bused in from park-and-ride stations or light-rail stations because of lack of parking, Halleran said .

The bottom line for valley residents who just want to get to work and back every day?

"There will be an impact," Halleran said. "But we're not saying, `It's the Olympics, and it'll be gone in three weeks.' That approach in planning is unacceptable to us."