DRAPER -- Can U-turns cure severe congestion at one of the busiest intersections in the Salt Lake Valley? The Utah Department of Transportation thinks so.
It's planning an innovative overhaul at the intersection of 12300 South and Minute Man Drive in Draper. People who drive through that intersection daily say it's easy to get frustrated.
The ThrUTurn Intersection is expected to be completed late summer 2011. -UDOT
Josh Feller is one of those people. He drives through the intersection for work. "You waste at least five minutes, 10 minutes going anywhere in this intersection," he said.
A UDOT study shows 12300 South and State Street is "near failure" for motorists and bad for business. So UDOT knew it had to work with Draper officials to come up with a solution.
"This is the gateway to Draper City," says Tim Rose, UDOT deputy director for Region 2. "This is their economic center. It's important we maintain business through this community and maintain mobility."
A driver can end up waiting two minutes to make a turn, and 2030 traffic models predict delays up to seven minutes. Twenty percent of the motorists make left turns from that intersection, but they block traffic for the other 80 percent. During peak hours, traffic backs up to I-15, a quarter mile to the west."One or two cars can make it through for a left turn," said Chris Lucherini, who drives through a couple of times each day. "It's just a nightmare."
And it's dangerous, too. There have been more than 120 crashes there in the past six months. UDOT thinks a ThrU Turn Intersection is the answer. Also known as a Michigan U-turn, the ThrU Turn eliminates left turns and a lot of stacked up traffic.
"Instead of making a left turn at the State Street intersection, you'd travel through the intersection about 600 feet, and make a U-turn at a signalized intersection," Rose said.
After the U-turn, motorists head back to the intersection and make a right turn to complete their left turn.
UDOT made a video to help educate the public. "When you need to make a left turn, just remember to make a ThrU turn," it says. "Pass straight through the intersection, then make a U-turn, followed by a right turn, and you're there."
While the new configuration may cause some confusion at first, many who regularly roll through this intersection say it sounds like a good idea.
"We actually do that anyway," Feller said. "I don't know if it's illegal. We do U-turns all the time just to get through here. So, yeah, it makes sense."
Craig Stuart is a professional truck driver and gas station manager who pulls a double tanker through the area.
"It's going to be interesting," he said. "I hope it's going to work for the trucks. UDOT probably wouldn't plan it unless it would."
"We have some really good signing we're going to put up," Rose said. "So, it'll be very intuitive."
Construction on the intersection should begin in late winter or early spring and it should last about four months. The total price tag is $4 million, which in the world of road building, is a cost-effective solution.