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Utah highway officials are considering a possible solution to nightmarish delays — and the blocking of all traffic to the West Coast — when accidents occur on Interstate 80 at the narrow pinch of land at the Salt Lake-Tooele county line.

The idea: Extend State Road 201 through that area to add an alternative to I-80.

Not much dry flatland exists where the Oquirrh Mountains descend to meet the Great Salt Lake marshes — just enough room now for I-80, railroad tracks and a bit of vacant land between them.

Highway officials believe just enough room may exist there to squeeze in three lanes to extend SR-201 for about three miles from where it ends and intersects with I-80 now near Black Rock beach to the interchange with State Road 36, the main turnoff to Tooele.

That extension would cost an estimated $150 million. In comparison, an ongoing project to rebuild Interstate 215 between 4700 South and SR-201 will cost about $104 million, and a project next year to convert four intersections on Bangerter Highway into freewaylike interchanges will cost about $208 million.

SR-201 would not be a major freeway or divided highway there, as it is in most other spots. But Utah Department of Transportation officials say the extension could give enough extra capacity to help relieve congestion during peak commutes and provide a path around crashes.

"When there is a crash there, it backs up and becomes a parking lot," said UDOT program manager Dave Schwartz.

"We've had people backed up in traffic for as long as four hours," Tooele County Commission Chairman Wade Bitner told the Utah Transportation Commission during a tour of the area last week.

"If you are in that parking lot, you're there for a while," said Grantsville Mayor Brent Marshall. "There is no place to go" because that is really the only major-road access between the Salt Lake and Tooele valleys.

The only other paved-road alternative is to take a 90-mile detour using Interstate 15 to Utah County, go west to Cedar Valley, then travel up the length of Tooele County to re-enter I-80.

"That's an hour and 37 minutes today when there is no traffic," Schwartz said. "You can probably double that when there is a crash on I-80."

Schwartz said 197 crashes occurred in that stretch of I-80 between January 2010 and February 2016 — about 33 per year.

Accidents and slowed or stopped traffic at that choke-point stretch have major impact on interstate trucking to the West Coast. UDOT estimates that 20 percent to 32 percent of the traffic there, depending on the day and time, consists of large trucks.

UDOT is in the earliest stages of looking at the possible project, said Executive Director Carlos Braceras, describing it as the "starting-to-look-at-it stage."

"This is a need that has been brought to us, " Schwartz said. "We're listening to the county. This has not been developed in deep form. We are just looking at a problem that we have out here and coming up with solutions. The SR-201 extension is one of those solutions."

Bitner said traffic through that freeway stretch and at the interchange with SR-36 — the main route to Tooele — will worsen without such fixes.

Tooele County, which now has a population of 63,000, is projected "to add about another 100,000 residents in the next 20 to 25 years," Bitner said, and many will commute to Salt Lake County.

Other projects • Tooele County and its cities also are pushing hard for some other major projects to address growth, but funding all of them could be a problem.

For example, Tooele County leaders have long pushed for the proposed "Midvalley Highway" to parallel, roughly, SR-36 several miles to the east. It could reduce traffic on SR-36 and relieve congestions and accidents at its interchange with I-80.

Tooele County officials say they also need that highway to attract new businesses to the former Tooele Army Depot. Slow commutes on crowded local roads scare away companies interested in locating there, they say.

Grantsville also seeks $6 million to largely rebuild its Main Street, which is State Road 138. And UDOT is scheduled this summer to complete reconstruction of SR-36 — Main Street through Tooele — which had cost $25.6 million.

Braceras said finding funding for all such projects is a challenge, as is weighing the priority for each.