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Weber I-15 project begins

Bridges and intersections will be fixed — and extra lane built in Ogden area

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Utah officials are breaking ground today on the state's largest road reconstruction project since pre-Olympic expansion of I-15 in Salt Lake County.

For the next three years, orange barrels will line a 4 1/2-mile stretch of I-15 in Weber County as crews fix bridges and intersections and build an additional lane from 31st Street in Ogden to 12th Street in Marriott-Slaterville.

A second phase of the project, expansion of I-15 to 2700 North in Pleasant View, received approval by legislative leadership on Thursday for $51 million in funding. Lawmakers must vote on the budget increase before it becomes final.

Cost of both phases is $231 million.

"I'm pretty confident people will be pleased when we're done," said Brent DeYoung, project director with the Utah Department of Transportation. "It will alleviate congestion because it will double capacity."

Heavy construction won't begin until this summer. Meanwhile, UDOT crews will do preliminary work like pavement and soil testing, surveying, installing fiber optics and testing the condition of bridges.

At least 24 bridges are expected to be reconstructed during both phases of the project, four rehabilitated and two new bridges built.

Until Thursday, state officials were unsure about the scope of the project. But Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said it's "pretty much a slam dunk at this point" that funding will be available for the project's second phase. The second phase is needed to relieve a traffic "logjam" at 2700 North in Pleasant View, he said.

"Hopefully it will not only move the logjam, but it will evenly disperse traffic," Jenkins said.

UDOT officials have been planning to reconstruct I-15 in Weber County since before 1997, when the project became part of the state's Centennial Highway Fund. An environmental study of the project was completed in 2004 and since then, UDOT engineers have been meeting with city officials and planning for the project.

DeYoung is hopeful the project will run more smoothly than the I-15 expansion in Salt Lake County. The $1.59 billion project took four years to complete, causing a commuting nightmare for motorists who referred to the 17 miles of construction as the "luge run."

Since then, UDOT standards and procedure have changed, DeYoung said. The project team will focus on ensuring that traffic is impacted as little as possible, he said.

"We're optimistic we'll be able to construct this without having major delays," DeYoung said.

During construction, UDOT hopes to keep two lanes in each direction open to traffic during peak travel hours. At night, lanes could be restricted down to one. Some full closures are anticipated. Alternative routes will include U.S. 89 and 2700 North through the area.

UDOT has prepared several ways for motorists to keep abreast of traffic conditions during construction.

The project's Web site, www.udot.utah.gov/i15now, will be updated as the project changes, UDOT spokeswoman Bethany Eller says. Drivers can also call Utah's Free Travel Information Line: 511.

E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com