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Ravell Call, Ravell Call, Deseret News
Northbound I-15 offramp at the interchange at Center Street and I-15 in Provo, Friday, Aug. 19, 2011.

PROVO — A week before fall semester classes start at BYU, the Utah Department of Transportation is planning to close one access to the city from I-15.

The southbound Center Street off-ramp will be closed Sunday night for up to 90 days to accommodate reconstruction of the new interchange, which aims to enhance traffic flow in the area. It is the first in a series of several major construction tasks scheduled for the new Center Street interchange, including additional ramp closures.

"In order to stay on track and have the roads clear and up and running, we need to start work on this interchange now," said UDOT spokeswoman Leigh Dethman. She said the completion date is set for December 2012.

In its July newsletter, city officials noted that the interchange is among several "critical improvements" to I-15 in Utah County, and is part of UDOT's 2 ½ year, $1.73 billion bond-funded I-15 Corridor Expansion project. Other improvements include two new lanes in both directions, as well as an express lane, and a new 500 West underpass and other new structures.

"The Center Street interchange presents unique challenges, requiring a design unlike any other," said Provo Mayor John Curtis, who also blogged about the upcoming closure earlier this week. The city worked closely with UDOT to create the current project, incorporating all existing development.

UDOT developed an idea that would have increased capacity and efficiency, Curtis said, but the city wanted that and more and helped to facilitate a diamond-like design that is more familiar to drivers and would facilitate east-west movement on Center Street and access to nearby Draper Lane.

"Overall, we expect it to significantly increase economic development near the interchange," Curtis said. "We believe the long-term benefits are worth the short-term inconvenience."

During the closure, southbound drivers needing to access east Provo and businesses downtown, should exit at University Avenue.

To access west Provo, Utah Lake State Park or the airport, southbound drivers should exit at University Parkway and use Geneva Road as an alternate route. The northbound on- and off-ramps, southbound on-ramp and Provo Center Street, under I-15, will remain open during the closure.

For more information on the closure and other I-15 CORE projects, visit www.udot.utah.gov/i15core.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com Twitter: wendyleonards