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New closures hit downtown

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As the Olympics get closer, downtown Salt Lake City seems to be getting smaller.

More Games-related street closures took effect this week, creating traffic headaches for motorists.

And things are only going to get worse, officials warn.

Downtown Salt Lake City will become increasingly less vehicle-friendly over the next three weeks as the eight-block pedestrian area called "Salt Lake Olympic Square" takes shape.

Some commuters are feeling it already this week as they encountered a wave of traffic barricades, cones and No Parking signs.

"Yeah, it was bad, but we thought it was because we came 15 minutes later than usual," Tiffany Lewis said Tuesday. She exits I-15 at 600 South en route to the LDS Church Office Building. "It was definitely worse there. It looked like they were doing some construction."

New closures and restrictions were implemented this week to allow for build-out of the Main Media Center at the Salt Palace and the Delta Center and security for the main Olympic hotel at Little America. They include:

100 South: Closed from 300 West to 400 West.

200 South: Closed from West Temple to 200 West.

400 West: Closed from 150 South to 200 South.

500 South: Closed from State Street to West Temple.

Main Street: Closed/restricted from 500 South to 600 South.

West Temple: Closed/restricted from South Temple to 200 South; no parking on either side of the street from 500 South to 650 South.

600 South: One lane closed from 150 West to Main Street.

Streets are being kept open for as long as possible before the Games start Feb. 8, city transportation director Tim Harpst said. But motorists can expect scattered closures and restrictions through the end of January.

Sunday, Feb. 3, and Saturday, Feb. 9, are slated to be the biggest days for changes. Downtown streets are to return to normal traffic patterns March 1.

Some downtown business owners are not big fans of the street closures.

"I think they're closing too soon. The Olympics are still three weeks away from now. It only takes a day to put up a tent," said Howell Ujifusa, owner of Howell's Photo, 145 W. 200 South.

Mitt Romney, Salt Lake Organizing Committee president, said last week the white structures going up around town are far from pup tents. Set-up takes several days due to the various components.

John Patrick, president of Patrick Dry Goods at 163 W. 200 South, said he thought the latest downtown restrictions were still a week away.

"I don't know why, but I feel like it's been that (Olympic organizers) go ahead with their plans, and I'm not sure that they communicate enough," he said.

Still, Patrick said as wholesaler, he is better off than downtown retailers.

Ujifusa said he's still waiting for promised street signs directing traffic to his shop. But he's trying to stay positive.

"I've never been through an Olympics before," he said. "Right now it's a pain, but it could become a blessing."

A complete schedule of downtown street restrictions is available at on Salt Lake's Web site www.slcgov.com. Click on the green "Olympic Traffic Maps." Traffic information also can be found at utahcommuterlink.com0.

Contributing: Brady Snyder and Peter Thunell

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com