A local foundation headed by influential business and government leaders has launched a series of television ads calling attention to impending traffic woes along the Wasatch Front.

The Utah Transportation Education Foundation distributed the 30-second spots to local television stations earlier this week.The three commercials feature a nutty professor proposing a portable highway, one-person auto and commuter balloons as ways to reduce traffic congestion. After each idea fails, the bewildered professor wonders, "Maybe I ought to think about this."

"That's exactly what we hope these commercials will do - cause people to think about transportation," said foundation board member Robert W. Wood, chairman of Prowswood Management Inc.

"The commercials are humorous, but the problem they call to light is very serious. We must become more aware of our transportation challenges or else we will soon find our communities in a bind."

Narration in the commercials tells viewers that if the problem isn't solved, the Wasatch Front is doomed for the traffic congestion and pollution plaguing Los Angeles - a warning the foundation issued when it started its campaign last December.Producing television spots is a second step in the foundation's publicity program to get Utahns thinking about solving transportation problems. The Utah Transportation Education Foundation has also published four newsletters with information on mass transit and highway development.

The foundation's campaign comes at the same time Salt Lake County commissioners are considering putting the funding for Utah Transit Authority's proposed light-rail transit system on the November ballot.

But foundation members say they are not UTA's publicity arm to secure the quarter-cent sales-tax increase UTA needs to build and operate the $225 million commuter train and expanded bus system.

"This organization will never vote `yes' or `no' on anything. It's just to dispense information" and get the public involved in finding a solution to impending gridlock, said John Ward, the foundation's marketing consultant.

A news release announcing the television commercials said the Utah Transportation Education Foundation provides information on the need for "well-balanced, integrated systems of transportation."

Foundation board members include Wood; Kem Gardner, local developer; John C. Pingree, general manager of UTA; Eugene H. Findlay, director of the Utah Department of Transportation; Douglas S. Foxley, prominent local attorney and lobbyist; John D. Hiskey, Economic Development Corporation of Utah; Ted L. Wilson, former Salt Lake mayor and director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics; and Michael O. Leavitt, insurance executive.

Other members are Richard J. Goode, managing partner of accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand; Max A. Farbman, partner in the law firm of Van Cott, Bagley, Cornwall & McCarthy; Paul Barber, Utah Power & Light Co. community development manager; Mary Jane C. Due, retired attorney; Steven D. Kohlert, senior vice president of Intermountain Health Care; and Jeffrey C. Hatch, general manager of KUTV.

The television spots were produced by Fotheringham & Associates, a local advertising agency that donated its services. Local television stations will be asked to run the ads as public service announcements.