OREM -- Utah Valley State College hopes Rep. Chris Cannon's clout will stop a federal decision to disconnect a ramp leading from the college to I-15.
Cannon supports a request to the Federal Highway Administration -- made by Utah's Department of Transportation -- to keep the hook ramp intact. If the request is rejected, Cannon will press for approval through an appeal process, said Rusty Payne, Cannon's spokesman."We are aware of the situation and we think the hook ramp is great," Payne said. "We want to preserve that."
UVSC President Kerry Romesburg said the ramp, which was paid for by the 1996 Legislature as part of a $3.4 million road construction project at the college, is safer and easier than having to navigate through the busy intersection at Sandhill Road and University Parkway.
Students now take College Drive to the small hook ramp, which shepherds traffic directly onto the ramp leading to I-15's northbound lanes.
"I think it is a bad mistake" to take out the ramp, Romesburg said.
But the Utah Division of the Federal Highway Administration contends the one-way ramp is unsafe and was only given temporary approval when proposed three years ago.
Federal traffic engineers say the unrestricted access to I-15 creates a merging problem in northbound lanes. The administration also does not want to establish a precedent of allowing such ramps along freeways in Utah because it goes against federal highway design criteria.
"It's just not good engineering design to have a ramp connected to a ramp," said Clair Hendrickson, an engineer at Utah's Division of the Federal Highway Administration.
The school was granted a five-year approval for the hook ramp because the intersection on University Parkway couldn't handle the traffic volume. Now, however, plans are in the works to ease the traffic congestion with a $25 million interchange at 1200 North.
With the new interchange, he said, the hook ramp won't be needed. He also added that the school always knew the federal approval was temporary.
Val Peterson, an administrator who is the school's point man on the project, conceded that the school always was aware the OK from the federal agency for the ramp was not permanent. UVSC officials spent $150,000 to build the ramp anyway.
But no accidents have been reported in the two years the hook ramp has been in operation, Peterson said. "With no accidents, we think the safety concern is nonexistent."
A study commissioned by Orem of the traffic volume handled by the hook ramp also showed that 400 cars an hour enter the freeway via the ramp during peak drive times. About 100 vehicles pass through the ramp during slow commuting hours.
"If they take out the hook ramp, they increase the number of vehicles that have to go through the intersection," Peterson said. "How I see it is that they are taking away a safety valve."
Questions about the hook ramp surfaced when engineers began designing the eight-lane interchange at 1200 North. Officials want to create a traffic plan similar to the new Draper interchange.
Construction is scheduled to start in summer 2000 and will take two years to complete.
"The interchange will handle an increased amount of traffic for the next 20 years. The problem isn't the interchange. It is the intersection at Sandhill and University Parkway," Peterson said.
"There are hook ramps all over California. They are in all other parts of the country -- and they work well for a reasonable amount of money."