Tom Smart, Deseret News
LEHI — Weekend travel on I-15 in Utah County is about to get a lot more challenging.
The Utah Department of Transportation is announcing an eight-week project that is slated to begin Friday and expected to cause hourlong delays.
The project, scheduled to run on weekends through September, will reduce traffic to two lanes in each direction between Lehi's Main Street and 2100 North from 8 p.m. on Fridays to 6 a.m. on Mondays for the duration of construction that will complete bridge maintenance and repaving on the roadway.
UDOT spokesman John Gleason said crews will replace expansion joints on three bridges that have been deteriorating over the years due to weather and wear.
“The joints allow flexing of the bridge during temperature changes from season to season,” he explained.
While UDOT said the work is important and necessary to maintain the safety and integrity of the highway, the agency understands that drivers will see the closures as a major traffic headache.
“That’s why we wanted to get the word out for people to avoid the area, if possible, and plan ahead or take alternate routes,” Gleason said. “Especially on Saturday afternoons or Sunday evenings, we’re expecting delays of up to an hour with possibly six to 10 miles of backup,” he said.
Gleason said if drivers could plan to travel through the construction area before 8 p.m. on Fridays or after 6 a.m. on Mondays — outside of the closure windows — then time spent in delays and congestion would be greatly reduced.
UDOT also noted that drivers can take alternate routes to avoid the closure area altogether.
Drivers who live in Eagle Mountain trying to travel west of Lehi could use Bangerter Highway or Redwood Road. For those on the east side of I-15, they could use state Route 92 (Timpanogos Highway) as an alternate route of travel.
State Street (U.S. Highway 89) is also an easily accessible alternate for most drivers, said Rob Clayton, UDOT Traffic Management Division director. “We’re prepared with special signal timing plans for increased traffic on (State Street).”
UDOT said there will be accommodations made for BYU football games and over summer holiday weekends. Construction will be halted on those dates to avoid even bigger congestion issues.
Drivers should also be aware of another UDOT project this weekend scheduled for I-15 in Salt Lake County on Friday and Saturday nights. Crews will be completing bridge maintenance work at the 11400 South interchange, where northbound I-15 will be reduced to two lanes between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. each night.
For updates, drivers can visit the UDOT website (www.udot.utah.gov) or download the agency’s mobile app to access the latest traffic information.
This most recent project comes on the heels of another major Utah County highway project that also caused massive traffic delays. This past December, UDOT completed the I-15 Corridor Expansion project that improved the highway from Main Street in Lehi to the Spanish Fork River.
I-15 CORE added two lanes in both directions and replaced original asphalt with concrete pavement. The 24-mile freeway project included 10 rebuilt or reconfigured freeway interchanges, 63 rebuilt or modified bridges, two new continuous flow intersections, traffic monitoring sensors, cameras, metering signals and electronic overhead signs.
Originally budgeted for $1.73 billion, the I-15 CORE project was the state's largest ever highway construction project. When construction began in spring 2010, the freeway was slated for a 2014 completion, but was finished approximately $230 million under budget and nearly two years ahead of schedule.
Gleason acknowledged that would likely offer little consolation to drivers who will be significantly inconvenienced by this latest construction project.
“Maintaining our roads and bridges now is going to cost us less in the future, but that doesn’t make it easier when you are stuck in traffic,” he said. “The goal is to get the information out to people so they can make adjustments to their travel schedules or take the alternate routes to avoid those (traffic) headaches.”
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