Imagine a smoothly coordinated system of traffic lights where hundreds of intersections are linked by a computer programmed to let you and your vehicle travel efficiently throughout the Salt Lake Valley with a minimum number of stops.

This high-tech network allows you to save precious time and helps conserve that increasingly expensive tank of gasoline.

And you can cut back on air pollution while reducing traffic congestion at the same time.

Sound improbable? Impossible? Downright wacky?

Actually, the average motorist usually reacts to this scenario as follows: slap knee and roll on ground in laughter; firmly hold tortured ribs with both hands and gasp out the words, "Sure, buddy. When pigs fly!"

But the optimistic folks on the West Valley City Council dug down into the municipal wallet Thursday night and came up with $62,475 to buy into the Utah Department of Transportation's dream for a more traffic-friendly tomorrow.

That money is the city's modest share of UDOT's long-awaited $68 million plan to install a computerized traffic management system that will link 551 intersections valleywide by the year 2000.

Ninety percent of the $68 million price tag will be paid for with federal transportation dollars.

Twelve of the signals are located on five West Valley City streets east of the Bangerter Highway, public works director Russell Willardson said Thursday.

The rest are scattered throughout the county, Salt Lake City, Sandy, Taylorsville, South Salt Lake, Murray, Midvale, West Jordan, Draper, West Jordan, Riverton and South Jordan.

It's called ATMS, an acronym for Advanced Traffic Management System, and it describes a comprehensive UDOT project to upgrade and coordinate signal systems throughout the area by the turn of the century.

Willardson said about half of the city's traffic lights will be improved as a result of the project.

In addition to new traffic semaphores at many intersections, the ATMS will feature remote-control cameras, traffic monitoring stations and systems that will relay electronic messages to motorists.

Much of the system will be linked by a fiber optics network that relays information to three communications centers that will be operated by UDOT, the county and Salt Lake City.

Similar computerized traffic coordination systems are in various stages of development in Provo, Ogden, Layton and Roy.

Willardson indicated the coordination of signals at intersections on 4100 South and 4700 South will be completed next July.

The remaining signals on Parkway Boulevard, 3100 South and 3500 South should be coordinated by August of the year 2000, the public works chief added.