SANDY — There’s good news and bad news for northbound I-15 drivers in the south valley this weekend as long awaited road improvements are expected to wreak havoc on the freeway on Super Bowl Sunday.

The Utah Department of Transportation will open a new northbound I-15 ramp system between 9400 South and I-215 as early as Monday. However, before drivers can enjoy the attributes of the new highway travel system, they will be subject to delays of up to two hours all day on Sunday while crews work to complete final connections on the new ramp system before it opens to drivers. 

During the down time starting at 5 a.m. and running throughout the rest of the day, I-15 will be reduced to three lanes and with ramp closures in place on the 9000 South off-ramp and on-ramp, along with the 7200 South off-ramp. UDOT warns drivers to avoid the area if at all possible, using Bangerter Highway or State Street as alternate routes.

UDOT spokesman John Gleason said the new system is designed to improve safety and reduce the number of crashes and traffic delays for the 130,000 vehicles that drive that area of the freeway daily.

“We’re trying to address all the growth that we‘re seeing here and to make sure we’re able to handle that,” he said. “It’s a ramp system that runs parallel to I-15 that takes cars off of the main line of the freeway.”

He likened the new $165 million system to the one currently serving vehicles at the 2100 South ramp that separates cars traveling onto surface streets from those continuing to drive north on the main freeway.

This new ramp system has a three-lane section that is separated by a concrete barrier from the I-15 travel lanes, he said. The new system will be the only way drivers can access 7200 South and I-215 from northbound I-15, he said.

“Because people that are getting on the freeway at 90th South and others that are trying to cross over from I-15 to either 7200 South or I-215, there’s a lot of people that are weaving in and out of lanes to try to make their connections,” Gleason explained. “This (new system) is going to cut down on that and we expect it to cut down crashes by about 40% and cut travel times in half.”

A new northbound I-15 ramp system near 9000 South, aimed at improving access to I-215 and 7200 South, is under construction in Sandy on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. Two-hour delays are expected Sunday as crews finish the ramp project. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

While the improvements are expected to provide an enhanced driving experience for drivers for years to come, this weekend will be painful for anyone who is unable to avoid the section of the freeway running from 10600 South north to 7200 South.

“We’re really excited to open it up on Monday for the morning commute and there’s going to be a lot of benefits to it, but to get to that point we have to tie it into the main freeway (which has to be done at certain outside temperatures),” he said. “We can’t do it overnight. We have to do it on Sunday and we’re anticipating delays of up to two hours. Our message is clear. We’re telling people to not drive on I-15 northbound on Sunday.”

“Avoid the headache, take an alternate route — either Bangerter or Redwood Road,” he said. “Don’t get stuck in delays.”

UDOT advises drivers that ramp closures and associated detours will be put into place as crews restripe critical access points along the roadway, requiring some ramps to be closed for up to six hours at a time, including the 9000 South off-ramp, the 9000 South on-ramp and the 7200 South off-ramp. However, the 7200 South and 9000 South off-ramps will not be closed at the same time, Gleason said.

If drivers happen to miss the entrance to the new ramp system, they should continue north on I-15 and use 5300 South as an alternate to gain access to 7200 South and I-215, he added.

The new ramp system is part of the I-15 northbound project, which will also widen northbound I-15 to include a new travel lane from Bangerter Highway to 9400 South, a news release states. The new lane and all other construction activities will be completed by this summer.