Facebook Twitter

6 states meet, discuss Oly traffic

SHARE 6 states meet, discuss Oly traffic

With Olympic traffic set to swamp Utah in 24 days, police and public safety personnel from surrounding states met Monday with Utah Olympic Public Safety officials to discuss how they can help man the flood gates.

Discussion among the representatives from Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona orbited around two connected but conflicting obligations: one, to facilitate the flow of unprecedented traffic, and two, to monitor that traffic with unprecedented scrutiny.

To accomplish the task, local and visiting police personnel worked to coordinate their efforts by deciding which traffic tributaries to focus their attention on and also by attempting to streamline the avenues of intelligence.

"Were trying to create an information base," said Earl Morris, deputy commissioner of the Utah Department of Public Safety.

The process involves teaching public-safety officers from neighboring states what to be suspicious of and how to contact the conglomeration of intelligence agencies, including the FBI, the Secret Service and Interpol, which will be based in Salt Lake City during the Games, Morris said.

The idea is to usher visitors to Utah without delay and, at the same time, detect suspicious activity before it crosses into the state.

This interstate traffic patrol is complicated by the fact that no one seems to know exactly how much traffic to expect, or, exactly, from which direction to expect it. Though Morris says he anticipates a "good share" coming from the west, he says "we won't know until Feb. 8th."

The logistics are further complicated by the Federal Aviation Administration's decision that all noncommercial aircraft heading for Salt Lake City during the Olympics must be screened at airports outside of Utah. The aircraft screening will involve searching both the passengers and the interior of their planes, Morris said.

The screening process will require the neighboring states' police officers to focus much of their attention on the small and mid-size cities that will serve as screening sites for the private airplanes. Among those cities are Colorado Springs, Colo.; Grand Junction, Colo., and Boise.

Despite the magnitude of the task the state officials seem to be looking forward to the challenge.

"We want to do anything we can to provide assistance to Utah," said Michael King, district commander for the Colorado State Patrol.

One city that will likely be a major source of Olympic traffic is Evanston, Wyo. Due to predicted traffic jams in Parleys Canyon between Salt Lake City and Olympic venues in Summit and Wasatch counties, many Olympic-goers may choose Evanston as a home during the Games.

Wyoming attorney general Hoke MacMillan predicted "it will be a quicker trip from Evanston to Park City than from Salt Lake to Park City."

To accommodate the Olympic attendees, he said the stretch of I-80 from Evanston to Park City will be heavily patrolled by police eager to help the Utah Highway Patrol keep traffic flow constant.

Legendary retired speedskater Johann Olav Koss, of Norway, also attended Monday's meeting.

He told the public safety officers that the Olympic athletes he has spoken to are not afraid to come to the Games. Koss said he was "very, very impressed," by the security measures taken at these Games and said he expects the athletes will feel safe here in Utah.

E-MAIL: joliver@desnews.com