New and larger street signs have been installed by the Utah Department of Transportation along U.S. 89 through Davis County, the first step of what could be an expensive and long-range safety improvement campaign on the highway.

The signs were installed this week at major intersections along a 10-mile stretch of the road from Farmington to South Weber.The new signs are larger than existing signs, making them more legible and more visible to motorists, according to UDOT.

Traditionally, signs with street names have been the responsibility of local communities while UDOT places signs indicating state route numbers of highways.

However, UDOT said, because of the residential growth on the highway and the increase in cross traffic, the department "feels that for motorists' convenience it should start to place some of these larger signs indicating the local street name, at least at major intersections."

The highway, known to local residents as the Mountain Road, is the subject of a $90,000 joint safety study being conducted by UDOT and the cities adjacent to it, through the Davis County Council of Governments.

The study was prompted by concerns of mayors over the large number of accidents on the highway, resulting in a high fatality rate. The study began with a series of public hearings in the communities, conducted by the consulting firm of Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas.

A number of suggestions on how traffic can be controlled to reduce the accident rate have surfaced, ranging from a series of freeway-style interchanges at major intersections to construction of a frontage road system to limit access.

The consulting firm has drafted a preliminary plan based on the hearings and will present it at a public hearing at 7 p.m. Jan. 4 in the Layton High School auditorium. The firm's final proposal will be readied by Feb. 28 and submitted to the Wasatch Front Regional Council.

The preliminary plan recommends various options for alleviating and controlling traffic patterns.

Short-term improvements recommended include lengthening and widening acceleration and turning lanes, building interchanges at the Hill Field Road and Cherry Hill intersections, and construction of a raised median the length of the highway to control cross traffic and left turns.

It also recommends construction of underpasses at major intersections in Fruit Heights, Layton, Kaysville, and South Weber to serve cross-traffic.

Those two traffic patterns, cross traffic and left turns, are responsible for 80 percent of the accidents, the study found. With increasing residential development along the Mountain Road in the last decade, that problem has worsened.

Intermediate-range plans call for construction of three more interchanges in Kaysville, Layton, and South Weber and widening the highway from two to three lanes.

The long-range recommendation is for construction of a final interchange at Antelope Drive in Layton.

If the short-range recommendations - meant for construction in the next two years - can't be carried out, the study suggests traffic signals be installed at the designated intersections.

The first signal on the Mountain Road will be installed next spring at the Shepard Lane intersection in Farmington, site of numerous accidents over the past five years. Development of a major shopping center at the intersection hastened the decision to install the signal, which will be paid for by UDOT, Farmington City, and the shopping center's developer.