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Do newfangled intersections ruin business?
ThrU Turn » Complex road design blamed for access problems in Draper and Kearns.

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"Cars were starting to stack up on I-15. That’s never a good situation," Carrillo said. "You essentially have cars parked on the freeway" with other cars approaching them at high speed.

The biggest time savings are for cars that go straight through the intersection. Cars making combinations of U-turns and right turns to go left are generally spending more time — up to 51 seconds longer than before in some directions, the study said.

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"But cars are continually moving," Miles said. "Vehicles are more efficient if they are moving than just idling."

Miles said UDOT projected that if it did nothing at the intersection, congestion could have created seven-minute delays to get through it by 2030.

The study says that anecdotally, the ThrU Turn appears to have decreased accidents as a result of reducing left-hand turns — but said more statistically reliable data over time is needed to verify that.

The study also found that about 20 percent of the relief at the intersection resulted from UDOT adding a new I-15 exit at 11400 South, and much of the traffic diverted shifted there.

"Traffic-wise, they are working very well. There are a lot of delays out there that have been saved," Miles said.

Business » The UDOT study says sales taxes collected by businesses in the area generally increased in the first six months after the ThrU Turn opened, so "there is no evidence that the ThrU Turn Interchange has reduced overall [shopping] trips or that it has negatively impacted overall economic activity."

Hitzelberger laughed when he heard that. "It’s had a huge negative effect on the businesses," he said. "That’s the reality."

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Several businesses around ThrU Turns in Draper and Kearns declined interviews, but UDOT correspondence files show their concerns — including the prophetic warning by Common Cents that it would be driven out of business in Draper.

Rancho Market in Kearns told UDOT it figured that reduced traffic from the ThrU Turn could put it out of business within a few years. Walgreens in Kearns, which reported it had the highest sales in the state for its chain, reported "extremely negative impacts." Wendy’s restaurant officials in both Kearns and Draper worried the intersection would hurt business.

Hitzelberger of Del Taco wrote that the design was "destroying my business" in Draper. He expounded in an interview.

"Our guests are very frustrated with that intersection. ... Guests say, ‘Wow, it’s hard to get to your store,’ " he said. "The signage is beyond terrible. It is so difficult and dangerous to figure out."

He had sharp criticism for UDOT.

"They’ve been incredibly successful in wrecking one of the best intersections in the whole state for business."

Miles said while UDOT likes the new intersections, it is still learning and open to discussions.

"We’re still looking and listening and talking to people about it. We’re learning," Miles said. "They [the intersections] are doing everything they were designed to do. Now it is a matter of educating, learning and communicating better how to make them work."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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