Project Director of I-15 expansion says community impacts are a last resort

Jul 7, 2023, 2:00 PM

A photo of I-15 filled with cars. The Utah Department of Transportation is collecting information a...

FILE: Traffic moves along I-15 during rush hour in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 1, 2022. (Mengshin Lin/Deseret News)

(Mengshin Lin/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Transportation is collecting information and feedback regarding their I-15 expansion plans from Farmington to Salt Lake City. 

By far, the biggest concern to the community is the effect the expansion could have on homes and businesses that neighbor the highway. Though Tiffany Pocock, UDOT project director of the expansion said encroaching into the nearby community is a last resort, UDOT can’t guarantee the highway’s neighbors won’t be affected. 

In May, UDOT released an Alternatives Development and Screenings Report addressing what the $1.6 billion project could look like. Pocock said the department will enter into a draft study further defining the project in the fall. It is expected to be completed in the spring. Through these analyses and studies, Pocock told KSL at Night that UDOT is trying to come up with a holistic approach to transportation and the future of I-15.


Why this corridor needs improvement

The report highlighted a few areas of concern the expansion addresses. Pocock said the aging infrastructure in the 70-mile corridor is a primary cause for change. Some of the pavement in the area, she said, is from the original construction of the interstate. 

“(We) need to repair the drainage systems, the utilities, then all of the pavement section throughout,” she explained. “We want to make sure that if we’re going to rebuild something and invest in that asset, that we are making sure that it’s compatible with the users in the future.

In addition to aging infrastructure, UDOT hopes to address growing travel demand and inadequate access for bikers and pedestrians who wish to cross I-15. 

The impact of expansion

Pocock describes I-15 as a tool for long-range transportation, but, do additional lanes take away from the use of other tools in the toolbox? Specifically, public transportation options that are better for the environment.

According to Pocock, the expansion of I-15 doesn’t necessarily create a barrier for the other transit options to run smoothly in the future. She said that UTA is performing a study on double-tracking and electrification of FrontRunner and looking at local routes for commuters. 

“Everybody wants to continue to live here and be able to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible and safely,” she said. “So that’s our aim.”

“Wherever we can, we’re going to use the right away that we have to, again, avoid as much as many impacts as we can,” she said. “But … there will likely be impacts at certain segments throughout this 70-mile corridor.” 

She said the department will have more information once the draft is complete in the spring, but in the meantime, they will try to make use of their existing rights in the area before resorting to homes and businesses.  

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Project Director of I-15 expansion says community impacts are a last resort