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Tom Smart, Deseret News
This South Temple parking ramp is expected to see a lot of traffic as tens of thousands of visitors are expected to attend grand opening festivities Thursday through Saturday at the City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

City Creek Center map: Download PDF version

SALT LAKE CITY — Getting in and around downtown Salt Lake City's central business district will likely be challenging Thursday as thousands head to Main Street to be among the first to experience City Creek Center.

The long-awaited retail and dining portion of the $1.5 billion mixed-use development officially opens on Thursday with 50,000 visitors expected in each of the center's first three days of operations.

With all those people expected to converge on downtown, transportation officials will implement various strategies to keep the flow of traffic moving and prevent gridlock that could otherwise cast a pall over the much-anticipated grand opening.

"We've been regularly meeting to create a traffic plan that would make it easy and convenient for guests of City Creek to arrive," said City Creek Center general manager Linda Wardell. "There will be greeters in the garage who will be assisting people in addition to the signage."

Dale Bills, spokesman for City Creek Reserve Inc. — the property developer owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — said extra customer service personnel will help patrons find their way around the parking structure and "make sure everything goes as smooth as possible and people are comfortable getting in and out."

There are six entrances to the parking garage — two on South Temple and 100 South, and one each on West Temple and State Street, including middle-of-the-street entrances on all but State Street.

Parking in the garage is free for the first hour, $1 for up to two hours and $2 for up to three hours with every additional hour after that running $3 — with a $20 daily maximum.

Bills also noted that the parking facility is equipped with state-of-the-art, sophisticated security systems to provide safety for visitors day and night.

"We're making every effort to make sure that traffic flows smoothly and consistently in and out of the garage," Bills said. "(We) have measures in place to facilitate 'easy in, easy out' and we're working hard to minimize waits."

"We've got everything in place that we can to make sure that it's a good traveling experience," said Salt Lake City transportation director Robin Hutcheson. She said traffic teams will be in place all over the central business district and will have the ability to control traffic signals throughout downtown in an effort to maintain the flow of vehicles for the entire three-day opening period from 8 a.m. Thursday thru 10 p.m. Saturday.

"(They) will be carrying real time radios to assess what's happening in the field, (then) communicate back to the traffic control center," she said. "Having traffic engineers on the ground constantly monitoring the situation will help us manage the traffic flow."

Hutcheson said there have been regular meetings for weeks involving Salt Lake City, law enforcement, City Creek Center officials, the Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Transit Authority to develop plans on how to deal with the expected large crowds. There will also be variable message signs around the downtown area directing drivers to the best routes to and from City Creek, she said.

In addition to the newly added 5,000 on-site parking spaces at City Creek Center, more than 15,000 additional spots are available in and around the downtown core, she noted. There are also ample accommodations for bicycles and the city has recently upgraded the downtown parking meters with new, solar-powered electronic pay stations that allow for multiple payment methods including coins, and debit and credit cards, she said.

Besides vehicle traffic, about 4,000 people are expected to take light and commuter rail rather than drive their own vehicles, prompting the Utah Transit Authority to increase its normal TRAX and FrontRunner capacity.

"We believe that running a regular schedule with larger trains should be enough to meet the demand," said UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter. If needed, UTA could also increase the frequency of trains to accommodate the increased ridership.

UTA will also enlist more transit police to patrol downtown as well as additional staff to help guide visitors through the highest traffic areas.

"Our operators will also be on a heightened sense of alert as they (move) through the downtown area," Carpenter said.

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