LINDON, Utah County — It may be a little early for Utah County drivers to start singing the full "Hallelujah" chorus, but there could be some jubilation Monday morning in the commuter congregation.
The Utah Department of Transportation announced Friday that all lanes of the Utah County I-15 Corridor Expansion project are scheduled to open at 5 a.m. Monday.
"It will be a nice relief for the commuters that drive everyday," said I-15 CORE spokeswoman Leigh Dethman. "When people drive to and from work on Monday, it's going to be a whole new experience."
From Main Street in Lehi to the Spanish Fork River, I-15 CORE construction has added two lanes in each direction and replaced original asphalt with new concrete pavement. The 24-mile I-15 CORE project is scheduled for completion by next month.
Dethman said work would continue at night through December as crews complete landscaping, drainage, barrier construction, fencing, concrete work, painting and other activities. UDOT also will conduct final inspections after dark to accommodate the project's completion timeline, she said.
American Fork resident Keith Robbins, who makes the drive into downtown Salt Lake City for work, said the announcement is welcome news — not just for his daily commute, but also for the added convenience of accessing neighboring communities.
Robbins said he looks forward to having the southern part of Utah County available to his family again. For the past two years, they have avoided the Provo-Orem area due to the hassles created by the construction, he said.
"If my wife and I were going to go somewhere, we would go north to Salt Lake," Robbins explained. "It was easier than bothering with the construction going south."
He said heading south required additional planning and at least an extra 30 minutes of travel time. Now that the freeway will be open, they are more likely to revisit some of their old haunts.
"It would be worth going back now," Robbins said.
During the next few weeks, crews will continue installing and testing equipment for the express lanes. Those lanes will be carpool-only during the testing period — no single passenger cars with express passes will be allowed, Dethman said.
On Monday, the speed limit on the 24-mile stretch will increase from 55 mph to 65 mph.
"It will be a nice, welcome change after months of construction," Dethman said. "And commuters will be able to test the new freeway for the next BYU home game (on Nov. 10)."
Originally budgeted for $1.73 billion, the I-15 CORE project is the state's largest highway construction project ever and the fastest completed billion-dollar, public highway project in the U.S., she said.
When construction began in spring 2010, the freeway was slated for a 2014 completion. Today, the project is expected to be approximately $230 million under budget and nearly two years ahead of schedule when finished next month.
In addition to the new lanes, the project included 10 rebuilt or reconfigured freeway interchanges, 63 new, rebuilt or modified bridges, two new continuous flow intersections, traffic monitoring sensors, cameras, metering signals and electronic overhead signs.
UDOT said crews would be working diligently in the next few days in preparation for the Monday morning commute, and drivers should benefit greatly as they utilize the newly opened roadway.
"This reconstructed freeway will improve traffic flow and safety," said I-15 CORE project director Todd Jensen.