It appears the Utah Department of Transportation is having second thoughts about how best to replace three bridges on Interstate 80 between Lake Point and Saltair that thousands of local commuters drive over every day.
As reported in last Thursday’s edition, UDOT has announced the $30 million project to replace the overpass bridge at Exit 99, and two railroad overpass bridges between Black Rock and Saltair on eastbound and westbound I-80, won’t be done this year as previously scheduled.
According to UDOT spokesman Tim Beery, the overpass bridge project at Exit 99 is in the “settlement phase.” This spring and early summer, construction crews deposited rocks and soil just west of the existing overpass for the new overpass. The new foundation for the new overpass is clearly visible to motorists as they drive over the existing overpass.
Berry said more work will be done in that area this fall, but the new overpass won’t be completed until late spring or early summer next year.
As for the two railroad overpass bridges just east of Black Rock, Berry said that project is still in the design phase, and planners are reviewing alternative designs and impacts to traffic during construction.
The overall project causing more traffic congestion on I-80 and state Route 36 is obviously a major concern to UDOT — and it should be. While crews moved dirt and rock next to the existing Exit 99 overpass last spring, westbound Exit 99 was reduced to one lane. There were also single-lane closures for both railroad overpass bridges east of Black Rock while crews filled potholes and performed other repairs.
The temporary lane closures at Exit 99 and east of Black Rock resulted in increased delays for county commuters traveling to and from the Wasatch Front.
The original design for the new railroad overpass bridges called for the two bridges to be constructed adjacent to the existing structures. The existing bridges would be demolished and the new bridges would be slid into place one at a time.
Traffic on I-80 would be restricted to a single lane in both directions for 23 days for the demolition and replacement of each bridge. But now, UDOT is looking at two alternatives, including the construction of a temporary bridge to maintain both lanes throughout construction, Berry said.
A decision on the final design of the bridge project is expected within a couple of weeks, Beery said. Construction work on the railroad overpass bridges is expected to begin next spring, with an anticipated completion in late summer or early fall.
Due to the thousands of commuters from Tooele Valley who travel daily on SR-36 and I-80, and limited detour options, it is hoped UDOT’s second thoughts will result in a plan that will significantly reduce traffic congestion when the bridge replacements resume next year. More than 40 days of single-lane driving on I-80 between Black Rock and Saltair will likely cause significant travel delays — and hardship — for local commuters.
Furthermore, it is hoped UDOT will initiate an information campaign to fully alert and educate commuters about the bridge replacements before resuming work next year.