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SLOC limits online sales

Purpose is to keep residents of S.L. Valley off I-80

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Looking to snatch up a pair of the few remaining tickets to Olympic ski jumping or cross country skiing?

Don't bother logging on to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee Web site if you live in the Salt Lake Valley. SLOC has cut off online sales for four days' worth of events requiring travel to Utah Olympic Park and Soldier Hollow on I-80 through Parleys Canyon due to anticipated severe traffic congestion.

Tickets for events Feb. 9, 10, 12 and 14 at those venues are available only at Smith'sTix outlets in seven counties outside Salt Lake County. Events at Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley are already sold out.

"We're actually hoping to discourage ticket purchases in the Salt Lake Valley," said SLOC spokeswoman Caroline Shaw.

The thinking is that Salt Lake residents won't want tickets bad enough to drive to Cache, Davis, Summit, Utah, Wasatch, Washington or Weber counties to buy them. Fewer tickets sold in the Salt Lake area apparently means fewer cars clogging Parleys Canyon.

I-80 is expected to have the worst traffic snarls of the 2002 Winter Games. Transportation planners estimate the highway — three lanes each direction — between Salt Lake City and Park City will reach or exceed capacity at least six times during the Games. They have warned spectators it could take four hours from home to their seats.

Tuesday morning, Utah Department of Transportation spokeswoman Amanda Covington said "there is a fair chance they won't make it" to the venues if more Salt Lake residents buy tickets.

Adding more cars to the highway would compound the anticipated congestion.

"We want everyone to have a fair chance of making it to the venues," she said.

Feb. 12 is projected to be the worst I-80 travel day.

Competitions at three venues are scheduled to start within a half-hour of each other. Planners expect 8,000 cars per hour on the highway, 1,400 more than capacity. Throw in a few commuters and semis — whose slow crawl over the summit displaces 18 cars — and things could get uglier, transportation officials say.

Traveling at least three people per vehicle or using Mountain Venue Express —SLOC shuttle service which recently reduced its rate to $5 per person — would help alleviate congestion.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com