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The City Journals

Are Murray gateways being neglected?

Nov 04, 2019 12:16PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Pigeon excrement can accumulate up to an inch at the Murray 5300 South off-ramp. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

First impressions are important, and for most first-time visitors to Murray, it is not Murray Park or Jordan River Parkway or even Intermountain Medical Center they see first; instead, it is likely Murray’s four main freeway interchanges: 5300 South, 4500 South, State Street, and Union Park. Yet are Murray’s major gateways being neglected compared to other cities?

Holladay’s 3900 South bridge has prancing elk and flying eagles. Draper’s 12300 South interchange has carefully manicured xeriscapes and scenes of mountains and clouds. For Murray’s 5300 South interchange, there is pigeon excrement; and it is unclear as to who should be cleaning it up.

For comparison, 4500 South saw on average (as of UDOT’s latest 2010 report) between 28,905 to 39,705 cars per day around that I-15 intersection, while Holladay 3900 South had 12,905. The Union Park interchange saw 63,140 cars a day, but if you head south on Union Park through Cottonwood Heights, there is decorative street lighting. Heading north through Murray, there is nothing.

Why is Murray left out of interchange aesthetics that other cities seem to enjoy? The answer depends on the intersection.

“5300 South had a landscape enhancement project done in 2006 to add landscape enhancements (rock landscaping, vegetation, irrigation). This project was submitted by Murray City and received federal funding as well as a funding match from the city. The landscaping is now maintained by Murray City,” UDOT Region 2 South District Engineer Shawn Lambert said.

Currently, the west side of the 5300 South interchange is being reconstructed as part of I-15 expansion, and most of the landscaping has been removed. The eastside off-ramp shows the weed barrier exposed in several places; however, underneath the bridge, there are clear signs of a need for pest control—a sizeable population of pigeons.

“Responsibility isn’t always clearly defined, but here’s my understanding for 4500 South and 5300 South:  UDOT is responsible for freeway interchanges unless there is an agreement in place that defines or defers the responsibility. On 5300 South, the city landscaped a portion of the interchange, and by agreement, the City maintains the landscaping,” said Murray City Engineer Trae Stokes. “It’s also my understanding that UDOT maintains the area under the freeway for both 4500 South and 5300 South.” 

Currently at 4500 South, there is no significant landscaping. Between State Street and Commerce Drive, 4500 South has had xeriscape landscaping installed along the road, but there are no improvements around the I-15 interchange.

“4500 South landscape is handled by UDOT. When UDOT has a reconstruction project at these intersections, there are baseline aesthetic treatments that are installed, to be maintained by the Department,” said Lambert. “If the local jurisdiction chooses to add funding for the project, betterments can be added to the project to have more landscape enhancements. To my knowledge, there have not been landscape enhancements added to the 4500 South intersection.”

Holladay and Draper did pay city betterments, meaning those cities paid to have additional landscaping added to the project when those interchanges, 3900 South and 12300 South, were constructed. According to Lambert, he was not aware of any betterments that were requested for the 4500 South interchange.

Mayor Blair Camp, in his first State of the City address, stated that he was going to focus on improving Murray’s gateways. The city also has committed to other projects, namely a new city hall, Murray Theater and improvements within the parks. With freeway interchanges, the State of Utah does provide support to a city wanting additional enhancements around it.

“There is limited funding within the projects to add enhancements for these intersections. Anything above and beyond this is added with a Betterment Agreement with the local municipality,” said Lambert. “When these enhancements are added to a project, the locals will also maintain them.”