PROVO — A major artery leading from I-15 to Utah Valley State College and Brigham Young University will soon close for 40 days for reconstruction.
And the closures could cause large traffic headaches.
The offramp for southbound traffic from the interstate to University Parkway may be shut down during a week when nearly 30,000 people come to Utah County each year for the schools' graduation exercises and BYU's annual Women's Conference.
Officials at UDOT and the schools are hoping a 40-day closure of the exit will end by April 26.
If not, drivers can likely expect lines of snarled traffic at both 800 North in Orem and Provo's Center Street exit.
BYU expects about 5,000 people for its main graduation ceremonies April 26. UVSC anticipates up to 4,500 people for its April 27 exercises, which will feature LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley as the commencement speaker. The next wave of visitors is expected May 3, when some 20,000 people come to BYU's campus for speakers and workshops during Women's Conference.
"Graduation is really not a large concern because people trickle in all day," said Carri P. Jenkins, BYU's spokeswoman. "Our major concern is with the Women's Conference."
Both Jenkins and Derek Hall, UVSC's spokesman, said UDOT has made an effort to coordinate work on the eight-lane interchange with major events at the schools.
"UDOT has been wonderful to work with," Jenkins said.
The contractor is aware of the traffic concerns. But a closure during the events may be unavoidable, said Geoff Dupaix, UDOT spokesman.
To complete rebuilding work on the southbound offramps an onramps, the contractor has 40 days to close both ramps to complete that work, he said.
Extensive and major work will be done during that closure period, and it would be impossible to open operable lanes on the ramps during that period.
According to contract, the contractor would likely be penalized if the ramp rebuilding is put off to accommodate the events.
UDOT says the contractor is hoping to begin the work on the ramps sooner so it will be completed by the weekend of graduations and the women's conference.
"The contractor is trying to work something out and possibly complete that work faster so the ramps can be open by then," Dupaix said.
But there are several factors that might make it difficult to move up the ramp construction period. "There are subcontractors trying to complete work as well," he said.
Because of the possibility that the ramps at University Parkway will be closed during those weeks, UDOT is trying to warn people ahead of time so they expect delays and plan for alternative routes.
"We want to be proactive and begin discussions early on this so we can minimize the impact," Dupaix said. "We realize this closure affects many businesses, a college and a university, and that's a lot of people to impact."