Mass exodus jams commute

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

Like many others at the U, Preethy Parthasarathy went straight for her car after she received two phone calls Tuesday afternoon telling her that she needed to evacuate the campus because of a gas leak.

Parthasarathy, a material science and engineering graduate student, immediately left the Warnock Engineering building. But because everyone else was also trying to leave, it took her 15 to 20 minutes to exit the parking lot on the north side of campus.

The Salt Lake City Fire Department initially shut down access to the two parking lots closest to the leak, said Randy Montgomery, an engineer with the fire department. Because of the fire hazard, people with cars located in the east Rice-Eccles Stadium lot and the lot south of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Building were not initially allowed to start their engines after the fire department secured the area, Montgomery said. The department allowed westbound cars to begin exiting the lots soon after 4 p.m.

The Utah Transit Authority cut off service to all TRAX stations east of the Stadium for approximately one hour in response to the leak. Steve Hansen, the UTA director of real estate, waited at the Stadium TRAX stop to update commuters on the change of service. Hansen said that TRAX continued to arrive on and depart from campus at the regular 10- and 15-minute intervals. TRAX resumed regular service at 4:15 p.m.

The campus shuttles shut down the regular lower campus routes in response to the leak. With both South Campus Drive and 500 South closed, the shuttles rerouted to North Campus Drive and 1300 East to increase service to the Stadium TRAX stop, said Kevin Coggins with Campus Shuttle Dispatch.

The fire department closed access to 500 South and parts of South Campus Drive for more than two hours. With defunct streetlights on both roads and parts of 1300 East, the U Police Department guided the traffic at the intersection of South Campus Drive and University Street.

Parthasarathy said she did not see any public service officers directing traffic on North Campus Drive. The traffic along North Campus Drive trapped many U commuters leaving the hospital, engineering buildings and Union for more than 45 minutes.

Doug Larsen, a U hospital employee who was asked to evacuate a little before 3:30 p.m., said he sat in traffic on North Campus Drive for more than an hour.

Elizabeth Duong, a junior in nursing, waited in the north side traffic for more than 30 minutes.

Some people waited on campus to miss the rush. Aida Kerimova, a junior in International Studies, said she delayed evacuating and only waited for about 15 minutes in the traffic jam on North Campus Drive.

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Tyler Cobb

Cars sat on Central Campus drive and in the Union pay lot for up to 45 minutes waiting to get off of campus. Insted of wattinf some people delayed their evacuation to miss the traffic.