Early Thanksgiving travelers are expected to stuff Interstate 15 with heavy traffic and delays this week.
The Utah Department of Transportation is predicting heavy delays — of up to 45 minutes — on Interstate 15 along the Wasatch Front during the evening commute on Wednesday, as many people head out of town or escape from work a bit early for the holiday.
UDOT said its engineers expect a 25 percent increase in traffic on both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, compared to a typical weekday commute of about 200,000 cars per day.
It expects heavier than normal traffic on Tuesday from noon to 9 p.m., and on Wednesday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. UDOT recommends leaving early in the day or late in the evening to help reduce congestion.
The delays are expected even though UDOT just opened — or is about to open — several projects in time for Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping.
For example, on Monday it finished its Interstate 215 west belt reconstruction; on Saturday it opened a new extension of the Mountain View Corridor from 5400 South to 4100 South; and Sunday opened a new interchange at 7000 South and Bangerter Highway.
Two more key projects statewide are scheduled to open by Wednesday: a new I-15 interchange at 10600 South in Sandy and new lanes and rebuilt bridges on I-15 in St. George from Brigham Road to Dixie Drive.
UDOT advises drivers to plan ahead for expected heavy traffic near retail centers on Black Friday. Many larger malls and shopping centers are located near freeway interchanges, and UDOT warns that congestion may back onto freeways.
UDOT said most ongoing road projects will suspend construction this weekend to help improve traffic flow for the holiday. But existing restrictions or traffic shifts will remain in place where needed to protect the work zone.
Some areas where drivers should expect restrictions include:
• Interstate 70 near Richfield. The freeway is reduced to one lane in each direction between exit 37 and milepost 43 near Richfield, and the speed limit has been lowered to 60 mph. Crews are rebuilding a four-mile section of the road.
• State Road 9 near Zion National Park. A one-mile section of the highway in Springdale is reduced to one-lane, with flaggers controlling traffic, for road reconstruction.
Meanwhile, transit service will be reduced by the Utah Transit Authority over the holiday weekend.
On Thanksgiving Day, UTA offers Saturday-schedule service on its ski and Park City buses — but no other bus or rail service.
On Black Friday, it offers Saturday-schedule service for bus, TRAX, streetcar, FrontRunner and paratransit services. It offers weekday-schedule services for buses to Park City. More information about individual routes and schedules is available online at rideuta.com.