Holladay resident Jana Cannon was heading north along the newly completed I-215 when she missed the 6200 South exit. She wasn't worried: 4500 South was ahead and she could get off there.
Wrong."I was flabbergasted when I came toward 4500 South and found no exit. I had no idea access would be removed when I-215 was completed," she said.
Inconvenience is only one problem the Utah Department of Transportation caused when it closed off northbound freeway ramps to 4500 South. Cannon and other residents also are concerned about the danger the lack of freeway access has caused.
Armed with a 900-signature petition and backing from Salt Lake County, a delegation from the Holladay-Cottonwood Community Council asked the Utah Transportation Commission Friday to put the 4500 South interchange at the top of UDOT's priority list.
Cannon and county transportation engineer Larry Beck-nell said the lack of a freeway outlet to 4500 South funnels thousands of motorists into residential streets searching for the 6200 South or 3300 South on-ramps.
Five children have been hit and one senior citizen killed by the increased traffic this year.
According to engineering reports, UDOT knew the problem the lack of northbound freeway access from 4500 South would cause - which further confuses residents. "Why this information was ignored is baffling," Cannon said.
But UDOT assistant district director Tom Smith said the state had no choice. The former on-ramp from 4500 South was closed because it wasn't designed for the high-speed traffic of a completed I-215. As for a northbound exit, there wasn't one to save. Until the completion of I-215, Wasatch Boulevard merged with the finished section of the freeway.
Furthermore, UDOT couldn't have built the ramps along with the rest of the freeway because the on-ramps were not in the 20-year-old plans. Until recently, UDOT claims, population in the rural-residential area didn't justify a full-blown interchange.
Now that it's in the plans, UDOT must go through the lengthy process of environmental studies and public hearings to appropriate $12 million for the proposed interchange.
"We have no problem with (northbound access). It's just a matter of when we can do it," he said.
To date, a draft environmental impact statement has been completed and public hearings will be held before the end of the year. Smith said design work on a southbound on-ramp from 4500 South is under way. A southbound exit already exists.
Cannon also complained about poor access to and from I-215 from 3300 South and 3900 South. Indeed, it is difficult to remember which interchanges have exits and on-ramps and which don't.
Smith said within the next 10 years interchanges along I-215's east-bench stretch will be completed. At that time, both 3300 south and 4500 South will have access to and from the freeway in both directions.
Meanwhile, the final design of 3900 South interchange calls for southbound on- and off-ramps, but only a northbound on-ramp. Smith said the existing southbound exit to 3900 South will have to be closed to accommodate a northbound 4500 South on-ramp.