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Steps are being taken to keep traffic flowing

SHARE Steps are being taken to keep traffic flowing

With thousands of motorists poised to hit the streets for the Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games, transportation experts hope to alleviate the onslaught of congestion and potential accidents.

The Utah Department of Transportation is adding 35 snowplows along the main Olympic routes, — I-15 and I-80.

Southern Utah and Casper, Wyo., loaned the 35 snowplows, increasing UDOT's total number of the machines during the Games to 160. The 35 loaned snowplows are specifically dedicated to keeping the Olympics routes clear.

UDOT officials will be spraying the roads with salt brine 24 hours in advance of storms to stop the bonding process of snow to pavement. Statewide, UDOT is responsible for 6,000 miles of roads.

UDOT is also sending out Incident Management Teams who work with the highway patrol to do traffic control at accident scenes.

"Incident Management Teams are essential because they free up the trooper to deal with the investigations at the accidents," said Tom Hudachko, UDOT spokesman.

Besides traffic control, they will come equipped with gas for stranded motorists, air compressors and jacks.

"Our goal is to get those accidents off the road and into a situation in which they are not obstructing traffic," Hudachko said.

There are nine teams working in Salt Lake City, and the number will increase by eight teams from Tennessee, Illinois and Washington. The service is free and can be accessed by calling *11 from a cell phone.

There will also be 20 service patrol teams added specifically for the Olympics. They will function in a similar manner but will not handle traffic control. Both types of teams will be patrolling from Ogden to Provo and from Kearns to Heber.

UDOT also put together traffic observers who cruise around the highways and check for stalled cars, cars in ditches and accidents. Some of the 100 observers will be on foot in downtown Salt Lake City, helping with accidents and traffic information.

Once a car gets stuck, tow trucks pre-Olympics may be hard to find. But come next week, dozens of tow trucks will be stationed along Olympic routes so they won't have to fight Olympic traffic.

"The name of the game is to get to the scene and get it cleared quickly so traffic can move. It has the potential to get really messy out there," Hudachko said.

The final UDOT preparation for the increase of road visitors is the purple signs posted all along the highways and streets, directing the lost to the proper venues. UDOT posted 250 signs at a cost of $550,000. Many of the signs point to routes that to locals may not seem like the fastest way to get there, but Hudachko said there are reasons for that.

"Take Ogden for instance. We worked with them to be considerate to spectators to get to their venues fast but also to allow local businesses to get a little bit of that Olympic traffic," Hudachko said.

All programs will be functioning to full capacity this time next week with the arrival of the additional IMT teams.


E-mail: sgiles@desnews.com