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I-15 work hits a snag

SANDY — Construction work on the new I-15 interchange at 11400 South will not start until at least mid-May.

The Utah Department of Transportation had originally announced plans to start the construction Monday, despite a pending lawsuit filed by a group of residents. Following UDOT's announcement Thursday, the residents filed a request for a temporary restraining order.

During a hearing in U.S. District Court Friday afternoon, Judge Tena Campbell did not grant the temporary restraining order because UDOT agreed to delay the construction voluntarily until after a May 11 hearing for a preliminary injunction. No construction work will start until after that hearing, although the project design can continue.

Local residents contend that traffic and environmental studies for the $34.5 million interchange were not sufficient, did not examine other alternatives and did not consider a number of other road projects as having joint impacts on the surrounding area. They also claim the Centennial Highway funds were granted because of political maneuvering by local leaders.

"The neighborhood's pretty happy," South Jordan resident Nicole Davis said. Along with other nearby residents, Davis has led the fight to stop the interchange that she said will destroy her farmland and ruin surrounding wetlands.

"When you take out part of a freeway, you have to put it back," she said. "But if you remove a pasture, that cannot really be replaced."

UDOT spokeswoman Amanda Covington said that the state agency decided to postpone construction to save taxpayers money, not because they think they could lose the case.

"We're confident that construction will go ahead and that we've done the right thing for the environmental assessments," she said.

Once construction does start, UDOT will restrict I-15 traffic in the area to one lane in at least one direction, and possibly both directions, during many weeknights. Full overnight closures of the freeway, frequent on the reconstruction corridor, will not be necessary or allowed, according to UDOT officials. And the contractor, Wadsworth Construction Co., will be required to maintain three lanes in each direction during daytime hours, including weekends.

UDOT construction engineer Brett Hadley said overnight closures may be necessary later in the project when the bridge that now connects State Street traffic to I-15 is demolished. But that work will not take long, he said, and a full closure may be avoided. Crews will take a break between January and April of next year so the project will not interfere with the 2002 Winter Games.

The new interchange will be financed by the Centennial Highway Fund, fueled by state gasoline taxes and an expected $10 million a year from a quarter-cent-per-dollar sales tax increase for transit and road projects approved by Salt Lake County voters last November. Much of the money came from a shift in funds when UDOT decided not to spend $50 million of Centennial money to extend 2000 East in the southern part of the valley.

UDOT has formed a Citizens Advisory Committee that will meet once a month to discuss issues concerning the project. The interchange is being constructed using the accelerated design-build method, meaning the final look of the interchange is not yet firm. The committee will have input on that design.

Among decisions yet to be made include the look of a retention pond to catch the drainage from the structure and whether or not 700 West will need to be used as a local detour. UDOT is hoping the city of Draper can complete an extension of Lone Peak Parkway to Jordan Gateway in the next three months so that the road can be used to detour local traffic once 11400 South closes in June.

The project will add additional turn lanes to the intersection of State Street and 11400 South and will connect State Street to Factory Outlet Drive.


E-mail: zman@desnews.com; jloftin@desnews.com