South Salt Lake Valley would seem the best place to avoid the inevitable traffic jams that will tie up traffic heading to the skiing, skating and other events of the 2002 Winter Games in faraway locales.

But it appears south valley officials would like you to believe the intersection of 11400 South and State is bound for gridlock when the Games and the expected horde of tourists arrive.Perhaps that's because the federal government appears ready and willing to hand out $50 million beginning this October -- and perhaps another $50 million the following year -- for transportation improvements that can be justified as Olympic-related.

"People will be renting out houses and everything else through the whole valley," said Riverton City Administrator Mark Palesh. "This place will be packed."

With that logic, Riverton has requested $6 million in federal money to widen 12600 South from Redwood Road to the Bangerter Highway. That same road, incidentally, leads directly to the site of a proposed Intel research and development campus.

South Jordan City Administrator Gary Chandler admits his city is asking for help with two road construction projects that aren't directly connected to an Olympic site. It wants $12 million to widen 10600 South, from I-15 to Redwood Road, and $1.5 million to extend 10400 South from 3200 West to the Bangerter.

Chandler justifies those projects as "creating more east-west routes across the valley."

Midvale City Administrator Lee King, who would like to snag $5 million to widen a light-rail bridge at 8000 South and State, admits Midvale is throwing in its line and hoping for a bite.

"I'm not holding my breath" waiting for Games-related federal dollars, he said, adding that the proposed project could ease traffic for Olympic travelers, "but it's not going to start or stop traffic."

Those projects are among 20 submitted by local governments and endorsed by the Wasatch Front Regional Council, the metropolitan planning organization for Salt Lake and four other Wasatch Front counties.

A total of $94 million is sought by the regional council, and another $70 million has been requested by the Mountainland Association of Governments, representing Utah, Summit and Wasatch counties.

Utah Department of Transportation officials believe Congress, thanks to language in the federal transportation authorization act that favors Olympic cities, could appropriate up to $50 million for those projects in fiscal 2000. It will be up to the regional council, the association of governments and the Utah Transportation Commission as to which projects are funded.

That anticipated $50 million for regional mobility projects is part of nearly $900 million in federal transportation dollars Utah appears destined to receive due to its Olympic connection.

"Everything we gave (UDOT) is directly related to the Olympics. We didn't put any extraneous project whatsoever on the list," said Kathy McMullen, Mountainland transportation director, adding that a majority of the improvements would help traffic get from the freeway to Olympic venues.

"We only have three or four east-west corridors that connect between I-15 and University Avenue. And from what I've heard, all of the hotels in Utah County will be booked up during the Olympics."

Regional Council Executive Director Will Jefferies and his staff rated each of the 20 projects the group submitted according to Olympic need -- either high, medium or low priority. The widening of 12600 and 10600 South and improvements to the intersection of 11400 South and State, were classified as having "low" Olympic connections.

"The sponsor of each of these projects would have to justify the connection," said Jefferies. "We gave a staff priority and that took into consideration the (Olympic) connection, other sources of revenues available and the time frame in which it can be constructed."

John Njord, a UDOT engineer who is coordinating transportation planning for the Winter Games, said the department left it up to the two planning organizations to establish each project's Olympic relationship.

Some projects, if not undertaken, would clearly effect the flow of traffic during the Games.

The regional council has labeled as a high priority the widening of 6200 South between 2700 and 4000 West, because it is one of only two direct routes -- 5400 South is the other -- to the Olympic speed-skating oval.

West Valley officials requested $4.8 million to help pay for a transit center near Valley Fair Mall. That work was given a medium priority by the regional council.

Assistant City Manager Wayne Pyle said the transit center is needed to meet current demands and would also improve the Winter Games' transportation network and accommodate a proposed West Valley light-rail spur.

West Valley City also seeks federal help to widen 5600 West from 2100 to 4100 South. Reconstruction of the segment from 2100 to 3100 South will begin this fall, but the city has not been able to obtain funds to widen it all the way to 4100 South, closer to the speed-skating oval.

Deseret News staff writer Jason Swensen contributed to this report.