A Forest Service official has approved the route recommended by an advisory group for a new access road to Snowbasin Ski Area east of Ogden.

Ogden District Ranger Ruth Monahan approved the proposal to build the 3.5-mile Snowbasin-Trappers Loop Connector Road along a lower alignment.Two alignments along higher ground were ruled out because they crossed broader sections of two sizable earth flows. While shorter, those routes would have required more costly construction techniques to minimize environmental impacts and potential slide damage to the highway.

Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Frank Joklik has estimated the cost of the lower alignment at $16.4 million.

Joklik, whose organization calls the Snowbasin road its top transportation priority, asked U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater to tap discretionary funds that Congress authorized him to use for projects essential to the Olympics.

Earlier this summer, Sen. Bob Bennett got legislation passed that allowed the money to come from any federal source. Bennett said the legislative language was the only way to get the job done in time for test events before the 2002 Winter Olympics, when Snowbasin will be the site of downhill and super-G ski races.

Critics of the plan, including environmental groups, had argued that Snowbasin owner Earl Holding should pay for the road because his resort will benefit and because Snowbasin officials promised to pay for the access road a decade ago while lobbying the state to build Trappers Loop.

Holding felt he was relieved of that responsibility in return for upgrading Snowbasin and building a hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.

The new access route provides a much shorter, straighter route to Snowbasin from the Salt Lake City area. Olympic officials contend the existing curvy road could not handle the heavy bus traffic needed to deliver 30,000 spectators to each of Snowbasin's six races.

"It's an important milestone that the Forest Service has officially selected the road alignment recommended by the partnering team," Joklik said Tuesday, referring to the advisory group from the Forest Service, Utah Department of Trans-portation, Morgan and Weber counties, SLOC, Snowbasin, Sierra Club, Save Our Canyons and three consultants.

"The process has worked," Joklik added. "It is encouraging that people with disparate interests can meet and mutually agree on a proper course of action."

While conservationists would prefer not to see Snowbasin expanded, Jock Glidden of the Sierra Club and Ron Younger of Save Our Canyons agreed the alignment-selection process functioned well.

"We came up with the best route, given the fact we were told where it starts and where it ends," Younger said.

Glidden said, "We're satisfied they've done their best to avoid wetlands and sensitive areas. Now I want to make sure the wetlands aren't stressed and overloaded by salts and runoff."