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Kristin Murphy, Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
A sign alerts drivers to new flex lane testing in Taylorsville on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012.

TAYLORSVILLE — Flex lanes are coming to Utah.

Motorists who travel along 5400 South between Bangerter Highway and Redwood Road likely have noticed a lot of new signs and electronic equipment being constructed over the road.

In an effort to reduce traffic congestion, the Utah Department of Transportation will soon transform that stretch of road into flex lanes, meaning extra lanes will be used to allow motorists to go one way during the morning commute and the opposite way in the afternoon.

"It was a very inexpensive, cost effective way to increase the capacity of the roadway," UDOT deputy director Tim Rose said.

The project cost $16 million, he said.

Currently, there are three lanes going each direction on 5400 South and a center turn lane. During the morning rush hour, the eastbound lanes are typically bumper-to-bumper, while the westbound lanes are open. In the afternoon, it's the westbound lanes that are packed.

Rose said flex lanes will solve the problem by allowing four of the lanes of traffic to go the same direction during heavy commute times, with one center lane to allow for left turns.

Overhead electronic signs with green arrows and red Xs have been constructed every 500 feet on 5400 South as a safety measure so motorists aren't confused about which way they should go.

"I think it's going to be very easy," Rose said.

UDOT wasn't going to put the plan into action until it was sure motorists were ready, he said. Testing of the new lights and signs was scheduled for this week.

Originally, the new flex lanes were scheduled to go into effect full time on Oct. 1. But Rose said that was an optimistic guess and the actual start date would likely be later.

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"We're definitely not going to open before we're ready to do it," he said.

UDOT ran into some technical difficulties during testing of the signs Thursday. Rose said all of the issues will be fixed before they start.

This project will mark the first flex road in Utah. It's a traffic control measure used in other states. In Utah, there are no active plans for another flex road.

Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal said when the road does open, extra officers plan to make a heavy presence at first to educate motorists about where they are allowed to drive.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

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