The Utah Transportation Commission decided Friday to spend $135 million in borrowed money for projects, including reworking an Interstate 15 interchange to better serve South Towne Mall, adding passing lanes on a Uinta Basin highway crowded with oil tankers and upgrading freeway interchanges in Davis and Box Elder counties.
The money comes from HB377 passed by the Legislature this year.
The bill was controversial because it earmarked how to spend another $41.45 million on a variety of local projects important to lawmakers, circumventing normal non-political prioritization and reviews by the commission.
House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, was the lone House member to vote against it in protest of the earmarking. She said rules did not allow her to comment during debate, and she said many members likely did not realize what the bill did. Attention created by her vote led to hotter debate later in the Senate, where it passed 17-10.
Of the $135 million from bonding that the bill gave to the Transportation Commission to decide how to spend, the most expensive project is $42 million to upgrade the intersection of Bangerter Highway and Redwood Road in Riverton.
The commission also decided to spend $20 million to upgrade a St. George intersection at Sunset Boulevard and SR-18; $18 million to extend the Pioneer Crossing highway in Lehi; and $14.75 million to extend Antelope Drive in Layton to US-89 and alter nearby intersections.
Among smaller projects is spending about $6 million to help reduce congestion at South Towne Mall. It would add an underpass beneath 10600 South to allow northbound traffic exiting I-15 to drive directly to the mall (via a short new frontage road), avoiding the need to turn left on 10600 South.
UDOT officials say it is somewhat similar to a frontage road they added that connect an I-215 exit to help traffic at Valley Fair Mall in West Valley City.
The commission also approved projects including $9 million to add passing lanes along parts of US-40 in the Uinta Basin between Roosevelt and Vernal, where a growing parade of large oil tankers travel from oil fields to refineries in North Salt Lake.
It also adds $3.5 million toward interchange improvements on I-15 at 1100 South in Brigham City; $7.75 million toward improvements on the interchanges of I-15 at Hill Field Road and Antelope Drive in Davis County; and $10 million to widen SR-108/Midland Drive in Weber County from 4000 South to Hinkley Drive.
The commission still has another $4 million left to spend out of the new $135 million new pot of money. Cory Pope, UDOT director of program development, said the agency recommended holding that back temporarily as it evaluates some projects designed to eliminate "choke points" causing congestion.