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Getting around the gridlock

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Drivers during the 2002 Winter Games will be like lab rats in a maze, sniffing this way and that for an out.

More roads will be closed than open in an eight-block area downtown to be known as Salt Lake Olympic Square.

I-215 and U-201 (2100 South) near the E Center will be packed.

And I-80 will be a nightmare at the mouth of Parleys Canyon.

It would be a gross understatement to say those who choose to drive should be prepared for congestion.

"It won't be life as usual," said Andrew Gemperline, Salt Lake Organizing Committee director of transportation and planning.

But that doesn't mean folks have to hole up in their houses if they're not going to the Games. Work and shopping demand people take to the streets. And the Olympics demand they know when, where and how before they go.

Nearly half of the Olympic transportation guide (available free at Smith's Food and Drug stores) is devoted not to getting to Olympic venues but getting around them. Information also is available at ( www.utahcommuterlink.com).

Transportation officials say there are ways to deal with the traffic onslaught: plan ahead, carpool, use public transit and be patient. Furthermore, wrapping several errands into one trip will save time on the road, they say.

Downtown, I-8O between Salt Lake City and Park City and around the E Center in West Valley City are the three traffic hot spots that could burn motorists if they are not ready to deal with gridlock.

A few quick tips for those locations:

Leave downtown no later than 3 p.m., unless attending Olympic events.

Avoid travel on I-80 eastbound in the mornings and westbound in the afternoons.

Stay away from the E Center 9 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Also, be warned State Street will be closed at about 6 p.m. on Feb. 7 from 500 South or 600 South to North Temple

for the Olympic torch relay.

Officials say downtown workers and revelers can save themselves a lot of aggravation if they abandon their cars for

public transit. But, they warn, the most obvious choice — light rail — might not be the best solution.

"TRAX has a finite capacity. It's a law of nature. Only so many cars can hold so many people," Gemperline said.

John Inglish, UTA general manager, suggests commuters use city buses. UTA has expanded bus routes to

accommodate 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. work schedules.

Those who choose to drive to the city center should consider using 700 East or State Street, neither of which have restrictions or closures. Freeway commuters might want to exit at 900 South or 1300 South as opposed to 600 South.

Coming in from the east might pose less headache than the west.

Salt Lake resident Trina Ostlund, who plans to change her route to work downtown, summed Olympic travel up best: "I think it's going to be a trial and error type thing."

Downtown Salt Lake City (Olympic Square)

Main Street closed from South Temple to 500 South (east-west travel at intersections open).

Expect congestion 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.

TRAX runs every eight minutes from 1:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. starting Feb. 3.

No TRAX service on South Temple starting Feb. 3.

Parking will be scarce.

For a complete list of closed streets, go to ( www.slcgov.com).

Expanded UTA bus service

Weekday routes starting before 6 a.m.: 8, 23, 34, 48, 51, 52, 55, 60, 61, 62, 63, 72, 73, 84, 334,337, 347 and 802.Night service has been extended on an hourly basis until 1 a.m. on many routes with the exception of route 140 and 156.

Additional Sunday routes 16, 42, 52, 84, 85 and 94 will run 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Source: rideuta.com

University of Utah area (Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium)

Commuters who use Foothill Drive should consider I-80 and 1300 South to 700 East on event days.

Medical Center Drive can be reached only through North Campus Drive.

Avoid travel near Rice-Eccles stadium Feb. 8 and 24 in the late afternoon and early evening.

West Valley City (E Center, 3200 S. Decker Lake Drive)

Expect congestion near arena 9 to 11 a.m., 1:30 to 4 p.m., 6 to 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.

Plan trips between those heavy traffic periods.

Avoid I-215 interchanges at 3500 South and 2100 South during peak travel times.

Avoid interchange at Redwood Road and U-201 during peak travel times.

3100 South will not be accessible from Decker Lake Drive.

2200 West will be restricted to local business only.

Kearns (Utah Olympic Oval, 5662 S. 4800 West)

Expect congestion 10 a.m. to noon and 3 to 5 p.m.

4800 West closed from 5400 South to Kearns High School driving range.

Kearns High can be accessed from 5400 South until three hours before an event and two hours after.

Exit school northbound on 4800 West.

Limit trips around school whenever possible.

Source: Olympic Transportation Guide

Downtown TRAX

Sandy/Salt Lake and University lines will run during Games to downtown Salt Lake City 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily.

The Sandy/Salt Lake trains run every eight minutes from 1:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. using three- and four-car trains starting Feb. 3.

City Center station will become the north end of the Sandy/Salt Lake and University lines Feb. 3-27.

City Center Station will close each day of Games at 6 p.m.

Passengers may board the Sandy/Salt Lake line at the Courthouse Station (450 S. Main Street)6 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Passengers can board the University line at the Gallivan Station (250 S. Main) 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.

University TRAX

Games-time hours are 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. (except Feb. 6, 8, and 24).

The last University line will close at 1 p.m. on Feb. 6, 8 and 24 for opening ceremonies dress rehearsal,opening ceremonies and closing ceremonies, respectively.

Source: rideuta.com

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com