A freeway system for bikes in the Salt Lake Valley and beyond? Utah wants to build it.

More paved trails are coming to the Salt Lake Valley thanks to a statewide project aiming to build an “interstate system” for bikes.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The dark waters of Mill Creek combine with the flow of the Jordan River on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. Nearby, a biker navigates the concrete ribbon of the Jordan River Trail. Utah Department of Transportation officials plan to build four new paved paths in Salt Lake County as part of an effort to create an "interstate system" for cyclists in the Beehive State.

Pedal-pushing grocery-getters will soon have an easier time steering clear of the hustle and bustle of suburban traffic when embarking on errands.

Four new paved trails are coming to the Salt Lake Valley as the Utah Department of Transportation looks to build out the state’s network of protected multiuse paths and create safer routes for cyclists.

Each trail will serve the car-centric suburbs on the west side of the valley, with three connecting to the Jordan River Trail, Salt Lake County’s main north-south route for non-motorized transportation.

The paths are just a small part of a $95 million project that includes 14 other trails across the state.

“We’re focusing on those [projects] that support that vision for a regional spine or backbone,” said UDOT administrator Stephanie Tomlin. “The analogy that we like to use is to think of this as the interstate system but for trails.”

The trail construction projects are the result of a 2023 state law that created a pot of money just for new paths throughout Utah. UDOT will pay for almost 60 miles of new routes with an eye toward providing residents with new ways to get to school, go grocery shopping and travel to work.

UDOT’s list of projects imagines paths similar to the incomplete Crosstowne Trail in West Valley City and Salt Lake City’s Parleys Trail — routes that improve east-west connectivity and capitalize on the Jordan River Trail as a central artery.

The longest and most expensive project on the docket for Salt Lake County is the 6.3-mile, $14 million Bingham Creek Trail that would connect the Jordan River to the Mountain View Corridor Trail, almost linking the river to the Oquirrh Mountains. The path would also go through the new Bingham Creek Regional Park and link to multiple TRAX light rail stops.

A shorter path — about 1.4 miles — will connect the Millcreek TRAX station with the Jordan River Trail and the edges of West Valley City and Taylorsville via a protected route along 3900 South as it becomes 4000 South heading southwest.

That path will allow residents in the surrounding neighborhoods, which are less affluent and more diverse than most, additional access to modes of transportation that are more affordable than car ownership, said Jordan River Commission Director Soren Simonsen.

“One of the things we’re focused on as much today as ever,” Simonsen said, “is making these connections from neighborhoods and business districts to the Jordan River.”

An even shorter connector trail just north of the Jordan Narrows in Bluffdale will contribute to those improved connections by linking neighborhoods to the river over railroad tracks near 1300 West.

For the only north-south project of the bunch, UDOT will build a trail along the Welby Jacobs Canal from 12600 South to 13800 South with a separated crossing over 13400 South in Riverton. Part of that trail is already built to the north in South Jordan.

Tomlin said each of the projects announced will be separated from cars with a physical barrier, making them safer and more comfortable for riders. However, some projects, like the 3900 South path, might only be separated from traffic by a curb, similar to the bike lane along 300 South in downtown Salt Lake City.

While UDOT wants to open more trails for recreational use, transportation officials also want to encourage Utahns to get out of their cars more regularly for everyday activities like grocery shopping. Taking more cars off the road during peak commute times could also help improve air quality along the Wasatch Front.

For now, it can be hard to run errands on a bicycle. Once a rider strays from a trail or protected bike lane, they run the risk of being stuck on large, high-speed roads with little space between themselves and cars.

“The problem there,” said Bike Utah co-Executive Director Chris Wiltsie, “is you get dumped off these facilities and the transportation system is anti-bike, anti-walking.”

While UDOT’s trail projects are not a “cure-all,” Wiltsie said, they are “absolutely necessary.”

Wiltsie and Tomlin hope the state’s investment kicks off more local trail-building efforts across Utah to better connect larger regional paths with neighborhood destinations.

Other new trails will criss-cross Utah with the surge of state funding for bike paths.

Grand County will get two new links connecting Moab to outdoor recreation hot spots outside of town. No other county will get more than one new path, but Utah, Davis, Uintah, Kane, Wasatch, Rich and Cache counties will each see new paved trails.

Construction on the paths could begin as soon as next year. UDOT has also selected five additional trail proposals for further study.