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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Tania Mashburn, public information officer for the Utah Department of Transportation, talks about ongoing statewide construction projects and how they will effect holiday travel in Lambs Canyon on Thursday, July 19, 2012.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Pioneer Day holiday is typically one of the most popular times of the year in Utah, and this summer is expected to be no exception.

Thousands of travelers will take to the roads both into and out of the Beehive State over the extended holiday period, taking advantage of lower gas prices, traditional parades and the outdoor experience that is such a part of Utah. The Utah Department of Transportation estimates that traffic on state highways will be about 16 percent above average during the holiday week.

UDOT warned drivers traveling for the Pioneer Day holiday Tuesday to plan ahead for construction statewide.

“We’re expecting (the holiday) to be busier this year because (Pioneer Day) is on a Tuesday,” said UDOT spokeswoman Tania Mashburn. “A lot of people are taking off Friday and coming back Tuesday night, so it could be pretty busy.”

While UDOT will suspend work on Tuesday, most construction areas will remain active prior to and following the holiday. Existing restrictions, such as reduced speed limits, lane restrictions, shoulder closures and narrowed lanes, will still be in effect during the holiday for safety purposes, according to a news release.

Drivers can access travel information by visiting udot.utah.gov and clicking on the orange Construction tab. The website includes an interactive map of all current construction projects in the state, as well as fire-related closures, live traffic cameras and incident information.

UDOT announced a list of construction “hotspots” that could affect travel to recreation areas, including I-80 in Parleys Canyon, which will have nightly lane restrictions in place for repaving work from the mouth of Parleys Canyon to Summit Park. Also, U.S. 40 near Jordanelle will be restricted to one lane in each direction. Additionally, westbound U.S. 189 in Provo Canyon will be restricted to one lane through July 23.

In Utah County, the I-15 Corridor Expansion project restrictions will remain in place before and after the holiday.

In Weber County, restrictions will remain in place for the I-84 eastbound reconstruction near Morgan. Farther north, existing restrictions will remain in place for projects on I-15 in northern Utah, including the auxiliary lane construction in Clearfield and maintenance work underway from Riverdale to Clearfield and in Box Elder County.

In Southern Utah, restrictions will remain in place for the I-70 reconstruction between Cove Fort and Richfield. S.R. 14 in Cedar Canyon will be open from Monday, July 23, at 4 p.m through Wednesday, at 7 a.m.  For those heading to the St. George area, drivers can expect narrow lanes on I-15 from Holden to Scipio and north of exit 27 to Toquerville and Zion National Park.

Gas prices

Drivers filling up their tanks will feel a bit less of a financial sting as prices at the pump continue to fall. Prices as of July 19 registered the average price of regular unleaded gasoline in Utah at $3.41 per gallon, down 25 cents from last month.

“The price of gas has been consistently going down,” said AAA spokeswoman Rolayne Fairclough. She said travel would likely be affected by various economic factors similar to the Independence Day holiday.

The forecast

For those who are spending their time in Utah enjoying Pioneer Day festivities or time away, the weather should be relatively cooperative.

Temperatures are forecast for highs in the 90s and overnight lows in the 70s for the next week, according to the KSL Weather Center. There are slight chances for rain Sunday through Tuesday and lightning could pose a wildfire hazard.

While the relatively cooler temperatures and recent showers have extinguished most large wildfires in the state, officials advise campers and fireworks enthusiasts to be careful and mindful of restrictions as the potential for fires still exists.

Celebrating with parades

Parades and activities abound this Pioneer Day holiday, including the Days of ’47, recalling Utah’s early pioneers with a variety of events culminating with parades in several cities statewide on July 24.

The holiday commemorates the 1847 trek of Brigham Young and a company of Mormon pioneers who first entered the Salt Lake Valley pulling handcarts and driving wagons with oxen or horses. The trek exemplified the courage, foresight and faith of the early Utah pioneers.

Salt Lake City will host the largest celebration with a parade in downtown on Tuesday. Friday The City of Bountiful’s Handcart Days parade gets under way. For information regarding nearby events, visit the website of the local municipality.

“Pioneer Day is an example of our heritage,” said deputy director Tracy Cayford. “When people are traveling, they are looking for that authentic experience. This allows people to come and experience our pioneer culture.”

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