SALT LAKE CITY — Drivers on Salt Lake City’s far west side should have a better travel experience with the addition of a new railway bridge aimed at reducing long train delays and traffic backups at a highly traveled intersection.
The Utah Department of Transportation is installing a new bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks near the intersection of 5600 West and 800 South. Construction crews Monday started placing support beams for the new overpass that will continue throughout the week, officials said.
UDOT’s 5600 West improvement project includes the new bridge over the rail crossing at 800 South that is meant to eliminate delays and congestion caused by trains, explained UDOT spokesman John Gleason.
“Right now, that’s a major frustration for people that have to drive through there on a daily basis because they can be stuck at the train tracks for 45 minutes to an hour,” he said.
The $83 million project is also expanding 5600 West between state Route 201 and I-80 to five lanes — two in each direction with a center turn lane — as well as improving numerous other nearby intersections and reconfiguring the interchange at I-80 as a diverging diamond interchange, he added. The project is scheduled for completion in fall 2021.
“We want to improve not only traffic flow by widening the (road), but also improve the quality of life for people to have to drive in the area every day,” Gleason said. “The bridge will go right over the train tracks and that’s going to be a huge time savings for the people who drive that stretch.”
During the bridge construction, the project team will use a unique construction material called Geofoam as part of the road base and bridge. Geofoam is a durable lightweight synthetic fill material made of expanded polystyrene.
“They look like giant styrofoam blocks and basically we use it as fill for the bridge,” he said. “The reason it is cost-effective, and it really works for this project because we had existing utility lines in place that we didn’t want to disturb. The Geofoam is lightweight fill that we can put in and keep the utilities.”
He said the material was used on the original I-15 reconstruction project just prior to the 2002 Winter Olympics.
“It’s been used a couple of different times,” Gleason said. “Where we can use it and where it makes sense — it’s a real benefit.”
UDOT noted that crews will be placing bridge support beams for the project over the next few weeks, so drivers should expect to see cranes and other construction equipment nearby as well as sometimes in the roadway.
During construction, traffic along the project corridor be shifted in some areas to accommodate building activities. Drivers should use extra caution when traveling through the construction zone and watch for traffic control devices, Gleason said, and look for crews working in and around the roadway.
Additionally, he mentioned that reduced speeds for work zones will be in place, so drivers should adhere to posted speed limits for the safety of crew members working in the area.