Christmas lights, activities bring throngs to downtown Salt Lake City

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SALT LAKE CITY —The pedestrians enjoying warm December temperatures in downtown Salt Lake City and the press of cars headed to a full lineup of holiday activities are challenging police and traffic engineers who are taking steps this weekend to improve conditions.

UDOT Thursday began implementing “signal timing plans” to try to maximize traffic flow on major thoroughfares as the lights on Temple Square and other activities bring thousands to the downtown area.

“We use them for winter weather, special events, and we also use them for 'time of day' coordination (during rush hour),” UDOT travel manager Lisa Miller said. “So if you’re heading downtown, use one of the main corridors.”

In 2013, the agency launched an initiative called the signal performance matrix that compiles and analyzes traffic signal information from locations statewide.

“So 24/7, 365, our traffic operations center is getting real-time data from the signals about (vehicle) arrivals on red (lights), volume, speed and people that are arriving on green (lights),” she said. Initial results indicated that drivers reduced their travel times significantly, thereby lowering vehicles idling times and emissions.

“(Using the data) helps the traffic to keep moving and helps the corridor to move people efficiently,” she said.

The next four days could be among the biggest traffic events of the year. Adding to those seeing the Temple Square lights are thousands who will attend the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Christmas concert Thursday through Sunday morning. Friday night the Utah Jazz will host the Miami Heat, and City Creek Center and The Gateway have events drawing in shoppers and diners.

So, 24/7, 365, our traffic operations center is getting real-time data from the signals about (vehicle) arrivals on red (lights), volume, speed and people that are arriving on green (lights).

–Lisa Miller, UDOT travel manager

The Salt Lake City Police Department will have officers monitoring vehicle and pedestrian traffic around EnergySolutions Arena at game time on Friday and the LDS Conference Center for all choral performances.

“We’ve traffic control happening at the conference center from Thursday night through Sunday morning,” said Salt Lake police detective Greg Wilking. Ensuring safety in high-traffic areas is a primary concern, especially for big events, he said.

Wilking noted that about 20 officers will be assigned to manage traffic in those two locations.

The Utah Dept. of Transportation urged drivers to maintain proper speeds in order to create the best environment for smooth flowing traffic.

Miller also encouraged those venturing out to check UDOT's website for traffic updates: “We also have a Twitter feed called UDOT Traffic.”

Public transportation can also provide a way downtown. The Utah Transit Authority has increased Saturday service after 4 p.m. on the Blue and Green TRAX light rail lines to accommodate extra holiday shoppers and visitors to downtown.

Spokesperson Remi Barron said the agency would monitor ridership and “will be adding extra TRAX trains and increasing frequency as warranted on the weekend.”

Contributing: Keith McCord


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