State transportation officials have agreed to change the east-side alignment of the Bangerter Highway interchange with I-15.

The Utah Transportation Commission decided Thursday in an emergency meeting with Draper officials to ask the project contractor to bend the eastern arm of the interchange toward the south.The original design, under contract with Wadsworth Construction Co. of Draper, calls for the Bangerter to cross I-15 near 13400 South and continue straight, ending at 150 East but with its terminus pointed directly east across the valley floor through the city.

Draper officials and legislators who represent the area told the commission local residents have made it clear they don't want the eastern extension of the Bangerter going through Draper, effectively dividing the city in half.

To leave the interchange alignment in its original position is tantamount to holding a "loaded gun" on the community, said Sen. Howard A. Stephenson, R-Draper.

Tom Warne, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation, conceded that plans for the eastern extension of the Bangerter have changed since the I-15 interchange was designed.

But commissioners were reluctant to change the contract because it could result in $100,000 in additional right-of-way costs. Commission Chairman Glen Brown proposed a compromise that was then accepted unanimously by the commission.

UDOT is to negotiate with Wadsworth to see if the alignment can be altered without delaying the entire Bangerter project or dramatically increasing costs. If that can't be worked out, UDOT and the contractor will then agree on an acceptable terminus for the interchange's eastern outlet, give Draper officials the rest of the money and let the city build the southern extension the way it wants.

Draper officials were a bit nervous about becoming financially responsible for the road's completion but didn't protest that point Thursday. For the moment, they are content with the commission's support of an interchange route that does not point a path through the city.

City Manager David Campbell and the four councilmen who accompanied him reason that if the Bangerter interchange is built to the 150 East frontage road without a change in direction, the future Bangerter extension would be more likely to cut through the heart of south Draper.

"It would be very difficult for (UDOT) to come in, tear that road out and start over," Campbell said.

UDOT deputy director Clint Topham told the commission UDOT could build the last section of the Bangerter, from I-15 to 150 East, with asphalt rather than concrete, making it easier to remove later. But that option failed to excite commissioners or Draper officials.

"This does not make any sense to me," Councilman Paul Lunt said of the original alignment. "We're not going to divide the city. It's not going to happen. We're not going to let it happen."

Lunt was the Draper representative on a task force set up by the Wasatch Front Regional Council to examine possible routes for the road that will eventually connect the Bangerter/I-15 interchange with 2000 East on the east side of the valley. Those routes have been narrowed to one preferred alignment that would run from I-15, around the southeast ridge of Draper and across the Dimple Dell Regional Park into Sandy. A southern turn of the interchange outlet would point in that direction.

The panel discarded UDOT's preferred alignment, which had the unnamed Bangerter extension heading east through Draper. It was that now-disfavored plan UDOT was following when it originally designed the Bangerter/I-15 interchange.

The extension of the Bangerter Highway from 12600 South to I-15 will cost about $50 million. It remains on schedule for completion in the fall of next year. Construction of the east-side extension of the Bangerter through Draper isn't likely to begin until after the year 2002.