This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Layton • A new $28 million road project is beginning that aims to alleviate horrible congestion near Layton Hills Mall by using, in part, a controversial ThrU Turn design that has been criticized in Draper and Kearns.
But Utah Department of Transportation officials say the design is tailor-made to relieve specific problems on Hill Field Road near Interstate 15 and the mall.
"We analyzed a number of different scenarios and solutions, and this one rose to the top," UDOT project manager Brett Slater said Wednesday as officials announced the beginning of the project. "It will greatly improve the traffic in this area once it is installed."
ThrU Turns called Michigan U-turns in other areas nationally do not allow any left turns at intersections where they are used.
Motorists wanting to turn left must go straight through the intersection and make a U-turn at a special intersection with a signal a few hundred feet down the road. Then they return to the main intersection and make a right turn.
The new project in Layton will soon ban left turns at the intersection of Hill Field and Main Street, just west of Interstate 15. And east of the freeway, it will soon ban left turns from Gordon Avenue onto Hill Field in front of the mall although left turns from Hill Field into the mall will still be allowed.
UDOT has an online animation of how the design will work at udot.utah.gov/LaytonImproved.
UDOT has used the design twice previously: at 12300 South near I-15 in Draper, and in Kearns at the intersection of 5400 South and 4015 West. While studies say it has improved traffic flow, many businesses complained that it made access too complicated.
The Tribune previously reported about a pile of written complaints from businesses at both locations. For example, the owner of a Common Cents gas station in Draper correctly predicted to UDOT that "you're gonna kill me," because many customers exiting the freeway would need to make two U-turns to enter his business.
Within a year, the gas station closed. Others wrote complaining that the design had significantly cut business in both locations, including a Rancho Market, a Walgreens and several fast-food restaurants.
But Layton officials and businesses say they support the design and other changes planned there, saying something must be done to solve severe congestion.
"This is big-time important," said Layton Mayor Bob Stevenson. "The congestion is terrible."
He added, "You have the largest employer in the state [Hill Air Force Base] right up the road," and traffic from it converges with cars to the mall and surrounding areas. "Everything converges right here."
Slater says it often takes 10 minutes to exit I-15 and enter the mall only a short distance away. "Traffic backs up onto the freeway," not just the exit ramp, creating danger as high-speed traffic approaches cars stopped there.
Stevenson said city officials are convinced that "modeling by UDOT shows that without a doubt, it [the ThrU Turn design] will help alleviate the problems." Estimates are that it will shorten average trips in the area by five minutes.
Stevenson adds that he has used ThrU Turn intersections while traveling. "I experienced them back East. The first time I went through it, it was hard to understand. But after I learned how they work, they actually are pretty smooth."
He said it may even create better access into the mall because one of the special U-turn intersections "will send traffic right into the mall if they want to do that," besides making a U-turn.
Linda Kelley, general manager of Layton Hills Mall, said, "Getting traffic flowing a little bit more freely will be important. Right now, it is quite congested, so anything we can get UDOT to do to keep things moving is really a benefit."
The ThrU Turn design, she said, "may be confusing in the short term for some people. In the long term, I think it will be a benefit."
Besides the ThrU Turns, UDOT will also reduce the number of signals at the I-15 intersection there. It plans to replace existing I-15 bridges, and is clearing adjacent land now where new bridge decks will be built and later slipped into place.
UDOT will install a new "single-point urban interchange," where just one signal will handle all turns at the freeway interchange to help reduce red lights and delays.
Slater said crews will narrow lanes later this month to allow work on the ThrU Turn portions of the project. UDOT spokesman John Gleason said that portion of the project should be complete within 90 days, before Black Friday and holiday shopping.
Most of the work will also be done at nighttime to help reduce the impact on congestion, Gleason said. Bridge replacement and freeway interchange portions of the project are scheduled to be completed early next year.
A "meet the contractor" night is also scheduled at the center court of Layton Hills Mall on Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., where officials will be available to explain the project.