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News » Less 'Black Friday' gridlock likely in downtown Salt Lake City

Less 'Black Friday' gridlock likely in downtown Salt Lake City

Less 'Black Friday' gridlock likely in downtown Salt Lake City It seems to happen every year -- you and your family drive into downtown Salt Lake City to see the lights go on at Temple Square, but the lights you see the most are the brake lights of the car in front of you.

Traffic can get congested on "Black Friday," the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season, but the Utah Department of Transportation reports that it's no worse than a nonholiday rush hour.

"It's not really that bad on a large scale," said Chris Siavrakas, control-room engineer of UDOT's traffic operations center. "It's never more than a heavy commuting day."

In past years, a confluence of downtown Salt Lake City events on the Friday after Thanksgiving -- Christmas light ceremonies at Temple Square and The Gateway, big sales at the downtown malls, and usually a Utah Jazz game -- have made for a traffic headache.

This year, some of those events aren't a major factor. Construction of the City Creek Center, in the site of the old ZCMI Center and Crossroads Plaza malls, won't be done until 2012. The Gateway staged its tree-lighting ceremony and concert last weekend. And the Jazz are off Friday night. (The Jazz host the Portland Trailblazers on Saturday night.)

Last year, many people avoided the traffic snarl by taking TRAX. According to the Utah Transit Authority, 39,677 people rode TRAX on "Black Friday" 2008, and 34,114 people took the light-rail system on the Saturday after that -- slightly higher than the 32,256 riders on an average weekend in November 2008.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Ralph Becker's office said the city "has no plans to do anything differently" to deal with holiday traffic.

Much traffic congestion can be alleviated, Siavrakas said, if drivers exercise common sense. For example, to avoid blocking the intersection, drivers should stop before entering the intersection if there's no room on the other side -- especially if the light is about to change.

"Obviously, [people are] anxious to get to the sale or to do things with their family," Siavrakas said. "Be patient and keep the holiday cheer." Temple Square lights

The Christmas lights at Temple Square, at South Temple and Main streets in downtown Salt Lake City, takes place around 5:30 Friday. The lights will go on every night, from dusk to 10 p.m., through Dec. 31.

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Added: November 27, 2009


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