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The Utah Department of Transportation is proposing to spend $1 billion which the Legislature just authorized to be borrowed over four years to jump-start some big-ticket projects.
That includes building a controversial freeway in western Davis County, further converting Bangerter Highway into a freeway and launching several projects to smooth congestion on Interstate 15 along the Wasatch Front.
UDOT prepared its list for consideration by the Utah Transportation Commission, which is expected to pass a draft recommendation of its own on April 12 with a final list in May. The Legislature's Executive Appropriations Committee is expected to review that plan in June before allowing a first round of bonding in July against future expected UDOT funding.
"People want more of our product faster. I should be flattered," said UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras.
West Davis Corridor • What could be the most controversial project on UDOT's wish list is beginning construction of the $610 million West Davis Corridor freeway sort of a northwestern extension of Legacy Parkway.
It has been opposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and conservation organizations that worry about destroying too many Great Salt Lake wetlands; grass-roots groups that fear razing of their homes; and transportation groups that said other alternatives make more sense.
Approval of the environmental impact statement for the project was delayed to allow a two-year study by UDOT of a so-called "Shared Solution" alternative to improve local roads and transit instead of building the freeway. UDOT rejected that proposal last year, saying it would not sufficiently reduce growing congestion and delays.
Also, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has opposed the route initially proposed by UDOT which would begin at Glovers Lane in Farmington saying it would hurt wetlands more than other finalist alternatives. That agency issues the permits required for construction near wetlands.
The corps preferred an alternative beginning farther north at Shepard Lane but UDOT says that would destroy more homes and businesses.
Braceras said UDOT has been working with the corps, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We're almost there" with a final solution, Braceras said. "We have high confidence in that," and notes that construction is not slated to begin until 2020.
He expects a final environmental impact statement outlining the freeway route in June, with a final record of decision in August or September.
"That's really where the fast growth is happening" in west Davis and Weber counties, Braceras said. "It's been clear to us that there is a need to build that facility."
Not all of the project's funding is coming from bonding. Braceras said bond money and other funds are combined essentially into one pot for all approved projects, "so we don't say this project has the bonding, and this one doesn't."
Bonding would help jump-start some projects, and provide slices of needed funding to move others more quickly.
Bangerter Highway • UDOT also seeks to use the new bonding to help accelerate converting Bangerter Highway in western Salt Lake County into a freeway.
The agency already built freeway-like interchanges on the highway at 7800 South and Redwood Road. Another is about to be finished at 600 West. It also has already funded a $201 million project for similar upgrades coming soon to 5400 South, 7000 South, 9000 South and 11400 South.
UDOT now is proposing to use the bonding to help convert three more intersections into freeway interchanges: 6200 South (costing $64 million, with construction starting in 2019); 10400 South ($46 million, construction starting in 2022); and 12600 South ($49 million, construction starting in 2022).
"Bangerter is one of the heaviest traveled arterials in the state" with 50,000 to 60,000 vehicles a day, Braceras said. He expects the interchanges to especially help east-west traffic that crosses the highway.
"We get huge benefits for the cost of the investment" of the interchange conversions, he said.
Interstate 15 • UDOT is proposing to use money from bonding to accelerate or begin numerous projects for I-15 along the Wasatch Front.
That includes speeding construction of a $450 project to widen and improve the freeway between Lehi Main Street and State Road 92 at Thanksgiving Point in Utah County. "That project would be advanced by two years," if approved, and start construction next spring, Braceras said.
Also accelerated would be a $158 million project to widen the freeway from Hill Field Road to the Davis-Weber County line including extending carpool lanes through that section.
Bonds would also accelerate a $169 million project to add a southbound lane in Salt Lake County between State Road 201 and 12300 South. "This is actually the section of I-15 where we have the most congestion," Braceras said. It will also improve the I-15 interchange with I-215 to ease merging between those freeways.
Another aspect of the project will widen 7200 South beneath the freeway, currently not possible because freeway bridges are too short.
UDOT also is proposing a $130 million project on northbound I-15 between 9000 South and I-215. It is congested in mornings and evenings from people entering at 9000 South and merging with traffic trying to move over and exit at I-215 or 7200 South.
The new project would essentially build a long bridge to separate that traffic. So drivers planning to exit onto 7200 South or I-215 would enter special, elevated lanes before they reach 90th South and "fly over" traffic entering at 90th.
He said those four projects "should make a big difference to I-15."
Some other smaller projects on I-15 are also planned.
That includes adding a new interchange at Shepard Lane in Farmington; expanding a current "half interchange" now at 24th Street in Ogden; and reconstructing an interchange at 1800 North in Davis County.
Others • Some other projects of interest on the list:
• Begin construction on the long-proposed Midvalley Highway in Tooele County. "The county did the environmental document by itself. It is bringing the property to the table, and has been persistent about the need for that road" paralleling State Road 36, the only major north-south highway there, Braceras said.
• Build extra passing lanes and pull-out lanes on I-15 from Cove Fort to Baker Canyon to relieve congestion in that southern Utah stretch.
• Look at needed improvements in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons as part of a $100-million mandate for projects that "have significant economic development impact associated with recreation and tourism in the state."
• Complete a drawn-out project of making U.S. 189 a multi-lane highway from the mouth of Provo Canyon toward Heber with $25.4 million for a stretch from Wallsburg to Charleston.
UDOT's website also allows residents to comment to the transportation commission about the proposals.