Second verse, same as the first?
Not exactly. As the ballad of I-15 reconstruction wails on into its second year, portions of the $1.59 billion project will actually reopen for traffic.Overall, as the spring construction season begins in earnest, motorists this summer should not find as many disruptions as last year.
However, most of the song remains the same - an endless refrain of ramps, roads, bridges and lanes closed along the 17-mile corridor.
The tune is more predictable now that the I-15 work zone has been established. And this year, you won't have the "parallel street" construction ensemble playing in the background.
"The ability of I-15 to handle traffic is the same as it was last year, and the ability of I-215 to handle traffic is the same as it was last year, meaning there's a lot of room out there" for motorists, said John Leonard, the Utah Department of Transportation's I-15 operations manager.
The reconstruction corridor, between 1000 North and 10800 South, will change very little this construction season. Traffic is now restricted to two lanes in each direction and switched onto one side of the freeway for all but a small segment of the project.
There will be one "switch back" late in the season, where traffic will be moved onto a new section of freeway near 7800 South. But motorists won't have to endure another summerlong juggling of the I-15 pathway.
The westside I-215 belt loop will be more stable, too. The roadway was re-striped during the early summer last year to allow for four lanes of traffic in each direction. There will be some UDOT maintenance crews on I-215 this summer, but motorists shouldn't see regular lane restrictions and shutdowns on the belt loop this time around.
Completed, too, are all those parallel street projects. UDOT originally planned to widen Redwood Road, State Street, 700 East and other alternate routes before I-15 reconstruction began. But because state officials chose to accelerate the freeway project to finish it before the 2002 Winter Games, that work had to be performed at the same time I-15 reconstruction got under way.
By comparison, then, the second summer of I-15 work could be a breeze for the average I-15 motorist. But for Wasatch Constructors, the difficult tasks are ahead. With last year's traffic management chores behind them, the real work of laying the roadway and building 144 new bridges can commence.
"We still need to remember that I-15 is a construction zone," Leonard said. "And although we've done a tremendous amount of dem-o-li-tion, this year we're going to see a tremendous amount of workers out there as they start to build these bridges, lay concrete and build the walls.
"There will be more activity and more people out there this year than last year."
To help ensure workers' safety, the state Legislature passed a law doubling the fine for speeding in any active construction zone throughout the state.
Those observing the 55 mph limit on the I-15 mainline may be traveling slow enough to notice that Wasatch Constructors did more than just let the ground settle over the winter. Brian Mauldwin, spokesman for the consortium, said relatively mild temperatures during the off-season allowed workers to get ahead of schedule in some project areas.
The 2700 South bridge above I-15, for example, is scheduled to open ahead of time on May 1. Workers poured concrete for the bridge deck earlier this month.
"There's been a lot of utility work that's happened," Mauldwin said of progress made during the winter. "The big issue was the ground settling, which would have happened in good weather or bad weather."
Now crews can begin removing the large piles of dirt, known as surcharging, and begin paving the new roadway.
A stretch between about 7700 South and 8100 South should be the first section of rebuilt interstate to accept live traffic. Bridges above 7800 South and 8000 South will be the first mainline bridges to come on line. They'll be completed this summer, and a traffic switch onto those bridges and the new freeway is scheduled for this fall, Mauldwin said.
"We feel very good about the progress on the project," said Clint Topham, UDOT's deputy director.
The scheduled April closures of eastbound I-80, between I-215 and I-15 in west Salt Lake City, and the northbound 10600 South ramps in Sandy will mark the halfway point for reconstruction-related road closures, Mauldwin said.
The 10600 South ramps were scheduled to close March 1, but Wasatch put it off as long as possible, Mauldwin said. The ramps will close sometime next month, he said.
"After that, then things will start to open up. We'll have switch overs and switch backs, switching over to the new side of the freeway with those mainline bridges (at 7800 South and 8000 South) opening up," Mauldwin said.
Here is a look at what else to expect along the I-15 corridor in the next six months:
- The Vine Street overpass in Murray will reopen in July or August.
- The southbound ramps at 4500 South are set to reopen in August or September. Shortly after that, the southbound ramps at 5300 South will close.
"We're to that point in the project where most of the future closings are connected with openings, so you'll always see things in tandem or couples," Mauldwin said.
- The southbound ramps at 7200 South will open in late summer. The northbound offramp at 7200 South and the southbound offramp at 9000 South will close at about the same time.
- The ramp connecting southbound I-15 to eastbound I-215 will close in midsummer, and the eastbound I-215 ramp to northbound I-15 is scheduled to close in late summer.
- The new 600 North interchange is to reopen by Sept. 1. As soon as it does, the 600 South offramp will close.
The I-15 reconstruction project, which will widen most of the freeway from six to 10 lanes, is on target for substantial completion by July 2001.