LEHI — For Utah County drivers, their decadelong highway construction odyssey may finally be coming to a close.
The Utah Department of Transportation Friday announced the completion of the I-15 Technology Corridor project, which expanded the freeway from four to six lanes in both directions between Lehi Main Street and state Route 92. The milestone marked the final phase in reconstructing I-15 in northern Utah County over the past decade that increased vehicle capacity on the roadway from Bangerter Highway to Spanish Fork.
At a cost of $415 million, this most recent project includes the state’s first one-way frontage road system, along with two redesigned interchanges and new trails for pedestrians and cyclists.
“Before the project started, there was kind of a bottleneck in this 4-mile section. Now we have eliminated that,” said UDOT project director Boyd Humphreys. “We plan on seeing benefits in travel time throughout the project and it’s going to allow better access to the area.”
Started in May 2018, the I-15 Technology Corridor is considered the final piece in reconstructing the freeway in northern Utah County, along with the I-15 CORE project, The Point project and the Access Utah County project — all completed since 2010 at a cost of just over $2.1 billion, he said.
He noted that despite the negative impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on so much along the Wasatch Front, early on in the outbreak crews took advantage of having fewer vehicles on the road to get more work done.
“We were able to close some lanes during that time when traffic was down and do some things that normally we wouldn’t have been able to do because of the (heavier) traffic, so there were some benefits that really did help the project,” he said.
UDOT said some remaining work will require occasional lane closures through mid-November to complete the installation of a multiuse trail for pedestrians and cyclists that includes a new pedestrian bridge and tunnel, as well as connections to existing local and regional trails. Crews will also install a concrete barrier, high-mast lighting and landscaping, traffic cameras and fiber optic connections, noise walls, fencing, signage, pavement markings and the final layer of pavement on Lehi Main Street bridge.
Humphreys said that with the newly widened highway, motorists may feel a greater sense of openness that could potentially impact their style of driving. He urged drivers to take extra caution when traveling the expanded freeway.
“(People) should obey the speed limit and drive safely out there,” he said. “Yeah, lanes are open and it feels like you can drive fast, but we want people to be safe.”
The additional lanes on I-15 are designed to keep traffic in the heavily traveled area moving and improve quality of life for residents and commuters, said UDOT spokesman John Gleason. Travel times from the Point of the Mountain to Lehi Main Street in the afternoon commute will be reduced by up to 50%, he added, which will benefit the growing number of vehicles that drive in and around the northern Utah County area.
“It’s definitely going to help the situation with the growth we’re seeing down there with all of the companies that are moving in here every year,” he said. “It’s become a technology hub, so that growth is going to continue and it’s important for us to stay on top of it — to be able to address the future and be able to deliver the best transportation system.”
With the overall expansion of the I-15 freeway, UDOT has replaced aging infrastructure with new pavement that is designed to last another 40 years, built 17 new bridges — including a new bridge over I-15 at Triumph Boulevard in Lehi. The bridges are redesigned to accommodate the added lanes on I-15, the frontage road system and new active transportation features, which are designed to last 75 years, a news release stated.
Gleason said the construction of revamped interchanges at Timpanogos Highway and 2100 North, along with the addition of several new on- and off-ramps between the interchanges will make it easier for drivers to enter and exit the freeway, as well as cross under it.
“(We) really just focus on improving transportation all around this area, not solely on I-15,” he said. “(This project) is going to reduce congestion and improve traffic flow in general.”
He said the completion of the last of the three projects will help the area continue its growth trend while addressing community travel needs today and into the future.
“It’s astounding when you look at how Lehi has transformed over the last decade. It’s gone from a small town to one of the centers for technology in the world right now,” he said. “It’s really been a focal point, so we want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to address that growth and make sure our freeways and state roads are ready to accommodate the growth we’ve seen here and we’ll continue to see.”