DRAPER — It may look like a bridge to nowhere to some, but a new apparatus hovering over I-15 at Point of the Mountain could be a shortcut on the road to driving bliss for scores of daily commuters.
Northbound drivers heading into Salt Lake County will notice a new addition to the construction equipment surrounding the massive revamp effort underway near the border of Utah and Salt Lake counties.
Spanning approximately 100 feet in length and 20 feet in width, the newly installed conveyor belt bridge transports concrete from the batch plant over the highway and directly into the work zone in the middle of the freeway, explained Tim Rose, project director for the Utah Department of Transportation.
The bridge reduces truck trips to and from the work zone, enhances safety for drivers, and reduces emissions and fuel consumption, Rose said. The bridge also improves efficiencies for crews who are in the middle of a two-year project to widen I-15 to six lanes in each direction from Lehi to Draper, he added.
“We’re eliminating 15,000 trucks,” Rose said. “Instead of taking 15 to 20 minutes to get a truck to the work site, we’re getting there in (just a few) minutes.”
Over the past several years, thousands of Utah County morning commuters have spent countless long hours trudging through the driving nightmare that has been northbound I-15 at the southern border of Salt Lake County heading into Draper, only to have to relive the frustration on the return drive as they commuted home in the evening, he said.
In an effort to alleviate that problem, UDOT embarked on The Point Project aimed at improving mobility and reducing congestion along I-15 between northern Utah County and Draper, specifically from state Route 92 to 12300 South, Rose said.
Launched in March with an expected completion date of fall 2016, the $252 million expansion effort will widen and place new pavement along the 7-mile stretch of freeway.
Named for its location near Point of the Mountain, the project will expand the freeway to six lanes in each direction from state Route 92 to 12300 South, replace old pavement with new concrete, reconstruct the 14600 South interchange in Bluffdale, enhance the existing traffic management system, and include new signs and striping on the roadway.
With the implementation of the conveyor belt bridge, crews can now work continuously without interrupting traffic, Rose noted, meaning an improved workflow.
“We can work 24-7 if we choose to,” he said.
While it is not the first time the conveyor has been used on a UDOT road project, it is the first time the bridge has been used over a freeway in Utah, he said.
The major reason for using the conveyor bridge is to save the contractor money and time, Rose noted. Such innovations can prove very useful, particularly in major construction projects, he said.
“It makes it a more efficient operation,” Rose said.