A light-rail station can be a slab of concrete with a simple roof, or it can be a work of art.

Salt Lake County and the five cities through which the Utah Transit Au-thor-ity's TRAX trains will travel have only a few more months to decide which option they prefer.UTA's Art in Transit program will provide thousands of federal dollars to any of the six governments willing to pitch in 40 percent of the cost of transforming basic stations into aesthetically pleasing, theme-oriented platforms that do more than give passengers a dry place to stand.

Those who don't act soon can join the program later, perhaps even after the $312 million system begins operation in the spring of 2000. But by then, those communities will have lost out on a chance to shape and mold their own TRAX stations before UTA's construction engineers do it for them.

"Our light-rail stations are kind of like big bus stops with canopies and benches," said Brian Mauldwin, TRAX community in-volve-ment specialist. "We think they look very good as they are currently designed, but we think they look even nicer through art.

"For example, a city may choose a different paving instead of concrete. They may want brick."

So far, Salt Lake City is the only TRAX community to get with the program. The city is sponsoring a workshop Tuesday night for artists, architects and designers interested in creating environments for the city's six TRAX stations. The workshop will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Salt Lake Art Center auditorium, 20 S. West Temple.

Murray, Sandy, Midvale and Salt Lake County have expressed varying degrees of interest in the program, Mauldwin said. South Salt Lake has not.

"We really wanted to leave it up to the cities to become involved or not," he said. "UTA is making the good-faith effort in offering this program, and we're hoping the cities will take advantage."

Here are the 17 TRAX station locations, listed by jurisdiction from north to south:

- Salt Lake City - the Delta Center; South Temple at West Temple; Main Street between South Temple and 100 South; Main between 200 South and 300 South; Main between 400 South and 500 South; Franklin Quest Field.

- South Salt Lake - 2100 South; 2700 South; 3300 South.

- Salt Lake County - 3900 South.

- Murray - 4500 South; Vine Street; 6400 South.

- Midvale - 7200 South; Center Street.

- Sandy - 9000 South; 10000 South.

UTA, with encouragement from the Federal Transit Administration, will provide $60,000 per station and asked communities to contribute $40,000 for a total of $100,000 for art per stop.

The money can be used for landscaping, lighting, surfacing, engravings, historical plaques or free-standing art - just about anything as long as it doesn't interfere with TRAX operations and safety.

"What the artists will be doing is creating artworks specially integrated into the architecture that will be present at all the stations," said Tad Savinar, an art and planning consultant from Portland, Ore., who will conduct Tuesday's workshop.

"The art will be there for many years to come, so it's best for the artists to come up with something that is a little more timeless in nature rather than being a one-liner."

The station on South Temple at the Delta Center could contain elements relating to the Utah Jazz, or perhaps sports and music in general. The station next to Franklin Quest Field could incorporate a baseball motif or the stadium's architecture.

"Each station will have its own character and relate to the space around it," said Nancy Boskoff, director of the Salt Lake City Arts Council.

Other light-rail systems have made good use of the Art in Transit program.

In California, San Jose teamed with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority to create some of the nicest station platforms in the western United States, complete with brick and tile surfaces and arched entranceways. In Sacramento, Calif., original artwork is embedded in tile at several stations. In Portland, Ore., the downtown tracks are lined with brick.