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WASATCH BLUES: IF YOU'RE RUSHING TO GET SOMEPLACE, YOU'D BEST STEER CLEAR OF BOULEVARD

"Wanna get somewhere in a hurry? We suggest you don't use Wasatch Boulevard."

That no-nonsense radio message will be heard repeatedly in the upcoming weeks to warn motorists to avoid the inevitable inconvenience and headaches that will result from the final construction phase of I-215 in the Cottonwood/Holladay/Olympus Hills area, beginning July 1.The Utah Department of Transportation has cut all the "bureaucratese" and is going to great lengths to get the message across. Another radio spot, with a sassy blues tune playing in the background, tells motorists to avoid the "Wasatch Blues" by taking an alternate route.

Currently, motorists are experiencing stop-and-go traffic on Wasatch Boulevard from the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon to 62nd South. Delays can be lengthy particularly as UDOT workers jockey construction equipment in and out of traffic.

But these inconveniences are minor compared to the mess that looms ahead, says Kim N. Morris, UDOT community relations director.

In the next few days, motorists will receive a status report on the four-lane highway that will connect I-215 to Big Cottonwood.

Traffic is going to be disrupted for several months. Freeway on and off ramps will be closed, sections of Wasatch Boulevard will be under construction. In general, driving on Wasatch Boulevard from 33rd South to the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon is going to challenge the patience of motorists, Morris said.

On July 1, the connection to and from I-215 and Wasatch Boulevard at about 47th South will be closed. This is necessary for the completion of the freeway to Knudsen's Corner. At the same time, Wasatch Boulevard will be reopened to through traffic at Oakcliff Drive, and Fortuna Way will be reopened at Wasatch Boulevard.

For motorists coming from south of 47th South, the closure of the I-215/Wasatch Boulevard connection will have a severe impact on the amount of traffic that will be able to get on northbound I-215 by way of the ramps at 39th and 33rd South.

"Between current traffic, the installation of new traffic signals and restriction because of construction, it is not improbable that there will be traffic jams and bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic from 33rd or 39th South out of the mouth of Big Cottonwood," said Morris.

While Morris regrets the inconvenience this construction will cause during the next several months, he believes Utahns will feel the hassle was worth it with the completion of this last section of I-215.

Morris and UDOT employees are proud of the interstate. The project is a year ahead of schedule, he said. Anticipated opening on the final phase is Dec. 1.

"We think of the freeway as a concrete ribbon of love," Morris said with a smile. "It will relieve about 10 percent of the congestion on I-15 through the heart of the valley and relieve significantly the congestion on area surface streets."

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(Additional information)

Freeway facts

Some interesting statistics about the final construction phase of I-215 in the Cottonwood/Holladay/Olympus Hills area:

-250,000 square yards of concrete will be poured for the final driving surface, which is 11 inches thick.

-6.7 million pounds of structural steel have been used for the bridges.

-Cost is $28 million for 4.9 miles of freeway, a little less than average.