The Utah Transportation Commission on Friday approved spending an extra $38 million to cover rising costs for two major upcoming highway projects — on Interstate 15 and Bangerter Highway in Salt Lake County. The increased expenses are caused in part by rising prices to buy and demolish homes and businesses to clear new rights of way.
That includes an extra $23 million for a project to convert three more intersections on Bangerter Highway into freeway-like interchanges at 6200 South, 10400 South and 12600 South.
Construction on those projects is scheduled to begin in 2020, but purchasing the needed rights of way is ongoing now. The estimated price tag now is $182 million.
Utah Department of Transportation officials told the commission that experience with building several other new Bangerter interchanges recently led them to re-evaluate and increase projected costs for obtaining new rights of way on the corridor.
The commission also approved spending $15 million extra on a project to widen northbound Interstate 15 between Bangerter Highway in Draper and Interstate 215 in Midvale — also because of higher-than-expected costs to obtain rights of way, plus projected increases in labor and material costs.
The lane-widening is now a $165 million project, and is scheduled to begin next year.
Buying homes to allow that I-15 project has been causing controversy.
As reported earlier this week, Midvale residents complain that dozens of boarded-up, vacant homes left by UDOT have been attracting squatters, drug use, vandalism and graffiti.
UDOT says it takes 90 days or more to obtain needed permits to allow demolition for each home once it is purchased. The house-by-house process could leave some vacant homes in the area for months to come — although UDOT says it is trying to speed up the process, and police are sending extra patrols to the area.
That northbound I-15 project will address what “is our No. 1 delay area in the region,” said UDOT Region 2 Director Bryan Adams.
That is caused in part by drivers entering the freeway at 7200 South trying to weave across traffic that is attempting to exit just up the road onto I-215 — which often brings all traffic to a near standstill. Part of the new project will use bridges to help separate and speed those weaving streams of traffic.
Also, the project will add an extra lane from Bangerter to 90th South.
Adams gave the commission some good news about an ongoing twin project to widen southbound I-15 in the same area.
He said traffic during afternoon peak times before that project had slowed to an average of 35 mph. Construction has added an additional lane, and even though work is ongoing, he said average speed during peak times has increased to 65 mph.
“That, again, was one of our worst areas in the region” for congestion, but is showing improvement even before that project is completed, Adams said.