Even though crews are suspending most road work this weekend for the July Fourth holiday, a few lane restrictions will remain that may cause some nasty delays.
Officials worried about higher-than-normal highway deaths this summer also are urging extra caution in one of the most dangerous holidays for driving.
While the AAA travel services company estimates that 3 million Mountain West residents will hit the road this weekend, up 1.5 percent from last year, the Utah Department of Transportation will suspend holiday road work. But it warns heavy traffic could cause delays in some spots.
For example, lanes are narrowed in both directions of Interstate 15 in Davis County as crews widen the freeway and rebuild interchanges. Because of expected heavy traffic this weekend, UDOT urges drivers there to consider alternative routes such as Legacy Parkway.
All traffic on State Route 201 in West Valley City from 5600 West to 7200 West has been shifted to the westbound lanes and reduced to one lane in each direction. UDOT says drivers should consider using Interstate 80 as an alternate and notes the lane restrictions will remain for about three months to allow repaving.
Westbound I-80 has been reduced to one lane in Summit County between the U.S. 40 junction east of Park City to Wanship. The speed limit has been reduced to 45 mph, and UDOT says travelers to Echo and Wanship reservoirs and Wyoming should plan ahead for delays.
After the holiday weekend, I-80 between U.S. 40 and Wanship also will be reduced to one lane in eastbound lanes beginning Monday. I-80 will remain narrowed to one lane in both directions through November to allow crews to place new concrete pavement.
Travelers should be aware that no UTA service will be offered on July Fourth.
“Since July Fourth is a federal holiday and the majority of our riders are commuters and students,” UTA spokesman Remi Barron explained, “UTA service will be suspended for the day. Regular Saturday service will resume July Fifth.”
Meanwhile, UDOT is concerned about a high number of highway deaths this summer and urges extra caution over the busy holiday weekend.
In June, for example, the state had 32 fatalities compared to 23 in June last year, said UDOT spokesman John Gleason. In the first half of this year, Utah had 104 fatalities compared to 87 last year — with more crashes this year having multiple deaths.
“Normally, we see about a 35 percent increase in fatalities in summer months compared to the rest of the year,” he said. “Many times there is a false sense of security associated with driving in the summer months. You tend to have more crashes in winter months, but people are driving at slower speeds because of weather conditions so you have fewer fatals. You have more fatal crashes in summer … because speeds are higher.”
Gleason urges three major steps to help reduce deaths — wear seat belts, avoid distracted driving and never drink and drive.
Wearing a seat belt, he said, “is the No. 1 thing you can do to save yourself in a crash.”
In addition, “make sure to give the road your full undivided attention. Put away distractions.”
Gleason said he knows many parties are planned this week, “but never drive impaired.”
Extra law officers will be on the highways looking for drunken drivers this weekend, sometimes in unexpected locations — including Zion National Park.
“In an effort to protect visitors and park resources, we will show zero tolerance, and anyone caught driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher will be arrested,” warned Cindy Purcell, acting superintendent of Zion, in announcing enhanced DUI enforcement for the weekend.