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The City Journals

Traffic relief may come to ‘second-most congested intersection’ in Utah

May 08, 2018 12:42PM ● By Carl Fauver

Dozens of people turned out at the Taylorsville Recreation Center for the I-215 frontage road open house. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Anyone who’s ever tried to drive through the intersection of 2700 West and 4700 South — from, say, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on a Tuesday — isn’t about to dispute a fact Taylorsville State Sen. Wayne Harper shared at a recent Utah Department of Transportation open house.

“That is the second-most congested intersection in our entire state,” Harper said during the UDOT meeting to gather public comments about a proposed frontage road, just west of the belt route, from 4100 to 4700 South. “And, for that matter, the intersection of 3200 West 4700 South is also in the top five of our state’s most congested.”

That’s why UDOT and Taylorsville City are teaming up to explore the possibility of constructing a southbound-only frontage road, similar to one built a few years ago, between I-215 and Valley Fair Mall.

“This environmental assessment of the frontage road proposal is federally required; gathering public comments at a meeting like this is an important part of that,” UDOT Project Manager Oanh Le-Spradlin said. “The estimated cost of this frontage road is $10 million to $14 million, and the construction could be completed with little or no property acquisition. But we need to determine how the public feels about the idea.”

Harper serves on the project team that did the legwork leading up to the UDOT open house. From what he’s seen so far, he likes the concept.

“It would be beneficial to residents living in the surrounding area,” Harper said. “And most of the funding for the project would be federal, so Taylorsville residents wouldn’t have to pay a large amount.”

“We anticipate 93 percent of the funding for frontage road construction would be federal, coming through the Wasatch Front Regional Council,” Le-Spradlin said. “If that happens, UDOT and Taylorsville City would only have to pay 7 percent, unless there were cost overruns.”

Another Taylorsville state legislator — Rep. Jim Dunnigan — also visited the UDOT public scoping meeting and supports the frontage road idea. “We’ve been working on (improving west Salt Lake Valley transportation) for years, and UDOT is listening,” he said. “Bangerter Highway should have been built as a freeway to begin with. But the improvements being made there and frontage roads like this are helping.”

The Wasatch Front Regional Council is a metropolitan planning organization, a quasi-governmental group tasked with improving transportation in this region as our population grows. As a part of that plan, the council has mapped out a number of proposed west side belt route frontage roads.

“Taylorsville City submitted an application for funding the (4100 to 4700 South) frontage road, and there would probably be federal money available for it, if the environment assessment determines it’s a viable plan,” said WFRC Transportation Improvement Program Coordinator Ben Wuthrich. “Of the several frontage roads (WFRC is) considering, this appears to be the most likely next one, because it would not require much property acquisition.” 

UDOT already owns perhaps all of the land it would need to complete the one-way road, adjacent to the belt route. The proposed corridor would skirt the eastern edges of property occupied by Utah State Laboratories, American Express, UDOT and a few others. To this point, it appears the most significant thing now occupying part of the proposed area is a popular walking trail.

A “Frequently Asked Questions” handout UDOT officials provided at the open house stated, “We are aware of the trail and its value to the community. The statement continues, “We will work to avoid and/or minimize any impact to the trail. If an impact cannot be avoided, UDOT will work closely with each property owner to determine fair market value.”

Along with the frontage road, UDOT proposes constructing two east–west roads linking 2700 West to the new frontage road.  Commuters using these routes to access the frontage road could then merge onto the southbound belt route north of the existing I-215 entrance at 4700 South.

Perhaps the biggest unanswered question during the public meeting was whether UDOT will construct an on-ramp to the new frontage road from the existing belt route overpass at 4100 South.

That’s the question homeowner Brian Holt most wants answered. He’s lived at 2412 Hard Rock Drive with his family of seven children since 1994. His house is the closest to where a ramp would be constructed if a 4100 South entrance to the frontage road is included.

“I understand the price of progress,” Holt said at the scoping meeting. “But if they do decide to build a frontage road on-ramp from 4100 South, I either want UDOT to buy my home or put up some much taller sound walls.” 

UDOT’s noise assessment specialist on the project, Elisa Albury, promised Holt the agency will comply with legal sound requirements.

The frontage road environmental assessment will continue through the end of the year. If findings support construction, UDOT officials said that could begin in 2020.