Traffic will be able to roll again Monday along I-80 between I-15 and Redwood Road.
The Utah Department of Transportation plans to reopen the vital link to I-215 and the Salt Lake Interna-tional Airport and downtown Salt Lake at midday Monday.Some cleanup will still be going on next week. But that's a minor distraction compared with what motorists have had to put up with the past 12 months during reconstruction.
To complete the project faster and save money, UDOT decided to completely close off the section. Detours funneled traffic onto congested county roads, city streets and I-15.
It was a first for both UDOT and the public. Never had a piece of urban interstate been entirely reconstructed. And that factor necessitated closing the entire portion down.
UDOT engineer Tom Kemmerer knows commutes were made longer and more frustrating for motorists. As project supervisor he's been able to take the route closed off to the rest of the world, cutting 8-10 minutes off his commute home.
"I know there is a price," he said.
Speaking of price, UDOT spokesman Kim Morris said the decision to close the section to traffic saved an estimated $3 million in traffic control and project management costs. It also reduced construction time by two years.
But even UDOT admits the reconstruction could have been done in less than the time it actually took. Morris explained, however, that if UDOT had restricted the time frame fewer bids would have been received, driving up the cost of the $10 million project.As for the winning bidder, Gilbert Western Corp., everything went as planned until the earthquake in San Francisco hit three months into the project. The West Coast temblor didn't damage the Utah roadway, but it did shake up federal officials into mandating immediate changes in bridge construction.
Before the rebuild, Morris said, plans were to replace only a few bridges. Some of the bridge supports on the 25-year-old section were so badly deteriorated that concrete could be ripped off with bare hands.
After the earthquake, UDOT was told to replace all footings, posts, caps and decks on the nine bridges along the reconstruction route. In addition to replacing the structures, UDOT was required to use more reinforcement steel in the bridge posts.
Kemmerer said the change actually speeded things because crews didn't have to worry about sparing one part of a bridge while trying to destroy another.
All told, the reconstruction required 2.2 million pounds of reinforcing steel bar, 68,100 square yards of concrete on the roads and 12,874 cubic yards of concrete on the bridges.
The reconstruction will add another 30-50 years to this section of I-80, Morris said.
In addition to the reconstruction, westbound on-ramps to I-80 from I-15 have been rehabilitated. The old surface was ground off and 350 gallons of epoxy pumped into weak spots. Crews will apply a new asphalt surface over the weekend.
All on-ramps and collectors closed because of the I-80 project also will be reopened.
No reconstruction projects are scheduled in the near future, but I-15 is next in line. UDOT is working on a final environmental impact statement proposing widening I-15 to five lanes each way and redesigning the interchange with I-80.