Summarized by Kent Larsen
General Conference May Jam Downtown Salt Lake
Deseret News 30Mar00 D1
By Zack Van Eyck: Deseret News staff writer
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The expanded capacity for this coming
weekend's LDS General Conference may cause traffic congestion in
downtown Salt Lake as attendees fill not only the new 21,000-seat
Conference Center, but also the 6,000-seat Tabernacle and 1,200-seat
Assembly Hall. Weather permitting, another 2,000 could sit on Temple
Square lawns listening to conference live through speakers on the
square. The total, 30,200 people at one time, is one of the largest
crowds Salt Lake City has ever seen.
Salt Lake City Police Captian Scott Atkinson points out that unlike
other events, Conference visitors don't all leave at the same time --
many hang around Temple Square waiting for the next session, or come
early, leaving the City to cope with up to 60,000 people downtown at
once, "I think the traffic downtown will be a mess," Atkinson says.
But the city also expects to learn from the experience, "It's going
to be new for us," Atkinson said. "It will probably help us prepare
for the Olympics as well." The city will post 14 additional police
officers downtown Saturday and Sunday, mainly to direct traffic.
A test of the new Conference Center conducted by the Church on
Tuesday itself caused traffic congestion, according to earlier
reports in the Deseret News. And the Church is encouraging members to
use public transportation to reach downtown. "Obviously, we want this
to be a good experience for everyone attending the conference and not
be a frustrating thing," said church spokeswoman Kim Farah. "People
just need to plan ahead."
The Church is asking people to arrive no more than 90 minutes before
the afternoon and Saturday evening sessions, so that those from the
previous session have time to leave. It is also paying the Utah
Transit Authority up to $20,000 to operate the new TRAX light-rail
system on Sunday when it is normally closed."We encourage car pooling
and also car pooling to the TRAX stations because the buses are not
going to be running" on Sunday, Farah said.