Utah Department of Transportation officials say rural state highways need $7 billion worth of work in the next 30 years to keep up with growth and safety concerns. Unfortunately, they figure they will only have about $2.5 billion to spend on them.
So on Thursday, they presented a preliminary plan to the Utah Transportation Commission prepared once every four years to prioritize projects through 2040 for the money that's available.
"We will have to be creative in how to provide for needs," Michael Fazio, a UDOT planner, said to the commission.
The plan foresees significant widening on interstate freeways, including some key canyon routes, and widening of some long stretches of two-lane highways.
Metropolitan planning agencies have been working on similar long-range plans for urban areas. For example, the Wasatch Front Regional Council has proposed a 30-year plan that would convert such roads as Bangerter Highway in western Salt Lake County, U.S. 89 in Davis County and, eventually, the planned Mountain View Corridor Highway in Salt Lake Valley into full-blown freeways.
UDOT's new preliminary plan for rural areas includes widening Interstate 80 from three lanes to four from the mouth of Parleys Canyon in Salt Lake County to Jeremy Ranch near Park City an estimated $53 million project. It also calls for $25 million worth of improvements at nearby Kimball Junction. Plans call for that to occur within the next 10 years.
But the plan would leave unscheduled and unfunded through 2040 another $426 million worth of additional I-80 widening and improvements: those between the mouth of Parleys Canyon and Kimball Junction that officials say UDOT would like to complete when, and if, money becomes available.
In another case, the plan calls for $209 million worth of widening on portions of I-15 in Beaver, Iron and Washington counties but leaves unscheduled $435 million worth of additional widening and freeway interchange upgrades there that UDOT would like to do if money becomes available.
The plan also calls for spending $86 million through 2040 to add passing lanes or widen many stretches of U.S. 40 between Heber and Roosevelt but it leaves another $12 million of widening of the highway near Heber unscheduled.
Some other items of note in the plan include: $309 million worth of widening and interchange work on Interstate 70 in Millard, Sevier and Emery counties; $238 million worth of widening and interchange work on I-80 in Tooele County; and widening the interstate in Ogden Canyon, a $65 million project.
The Transportation Commission and UDOT are expected to examine and tweak the plan during the coming months before voting to adopt it next spring.