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Parkway interchange in Orem is ready for redo

The design is being finalized.

The money's practically in the bank.And the University Parkway interchange is due for a redo.

"The existing structure is to capacity," said Dan Knowlden, project design engineer for Utah Department of Transportation's Region 3. "It's too narrow. It's aging and it needs to be replaced."

While the structure could probably stand another 20 years before transportation engineers are seriously concerned, it's none too soon to begin replacement, he said.

Traffic routinely backs up on the freeway lanes as cars try to exit onto the interchange ramps. The interchange needs to be larger and create smoother flow for an increased number of cars.

The new $10 million version will be both.

"We'll be putting an eight-lane structure over Interstate 15," Knowlden said. "We'll have shorter ramps, closer to the signals with what we call a compressed diamond interchange. There'll be improved signalization that has overlapping phases so no traffic will be on the structure when it's stopped. People will be able to go off and go through the lights without stopping."

The northbound onramp will be increased to accommodate two lanes of traffic. Traffic coming from Provo to Orem will no longer suffer the long delays that routinely back up traffic along the freeway.

The southbound offramp (popularly known as the offramp to Brigham Young University) will be widened to accept three lanes of left-turning vehicles. That will greatly increase access during peak times - like BYU football games and McKay Special Events Center activities - that currently clog the ramp.

"All of the ramps, actually, will have at least two lanes for traffic," Knowlden said.

Eventually the structure to the west that passes above the railroad tracks will be widened to five lanes, he added. So the interchange will be built so as to facilitate that change when money becomes available to do so.

Meanwhile, the money for building the interchange has been assigned to the project for expenditure during 1999, Region 3 director Alan Mecham said.

"That means we'd have it available for bid by October 1998 and should be ready to start construction that spring."

The plans have been worked out with input from Orem staff members, Mountainlands Association of Governments officials and JUB Engineering.

Mecham said the ideal scenario would be to get the work done with-in a year, but even if it takes two summers, the new interchange will be in place well ahead of the 2002 Winter Olympics.

That's good news since a hockey venue is scheduled for Provo, he said.

Along the way, the logistical challenges involved in managing the traffic while the busy interchange is torn up will be mighty.

"We'll be open to trying any number of innovations whether it's working at night or around the clock on weekends. We'll be open to suggestion," Mecham said.