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The Utah Transportation Commission decided Friday to hit the accelerator on plans to convert more stretches of Bangerter Highway into a true freeway in western Salt Lake County.
The panel had planned years of separate projects to convert Bangerter's main intersections into freeway-like interchanges, one at a time. On Friday, it decided to combine four of those future projects into one to help speed the work.
Commission members voted to combine into one project conversions planned at 5400 South, 7000 south, 9000 South and 11400 South.
Work on all four conversions are now expected to begin in January 2017, and be completed by the fall of 2018 two years earlier than under previous plans. All four intersections will now be included in one environmental review, and one contractor will be selected to build all of them through a design-and-build contract.
"The four projects had been planned for four consecutive years," said Utah Department of Transportation Deputy Director Shane Marshall. "So if you were on Bangerter Highway, you would see construction for four straight years. We wanted to find a way to speed that up."
He added that "all four won't be under construction at the same time. But by packaging them together, you get some economy of scale" and can manage and shorten traffic disruptions by treating them as one unit. "It will look like one project, instead of four separate ones."
Also, the new approach could lead to more consistency among the interchanges by having one contractor design and build more of them, instead of having possibly different types of interchanges at each road.
Contractors will be asked to include in bids details on their construction approach, including their strategy to manage traffic complications.
UDOT has projected a cost of $208.2 million to convert the four intersections.
UDOT has already completed similar conversions at 7800 South and Redwood Road, and plans to begin another next spring at 600 West, near Interstate 15. Eventually, it plans to convert almost all of the Bangerter interchanges.
Transportation Commission Chairman Jeff Holt asked if UDOT received its full money's worth from fairly recent conversions into "continuous-flow intersections" (CFIs) at places now planned for conversion into freeway-like interchanges.
The CFIs eliminate some left-turn signals to help speed traffic. Drivers wanting to make left turns must queue up at special signals farther from the intersection. They then cross traffic to a new far-left lane, and turn left while other through traffic goes straight through the intersection.
Marshall said the CFIs cost only about a fifth as much as converting into freeway-like interchanges, "so you really get a lot of bang for your buck and we gained 10 years in these locations before we had to go to this" more expensive upgrade.