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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- If you drive a east and west during peak times in the Salt Lake Valley, you know what a nightmare the traffic can be.
Now, the Utah Department of Transportation has come up with a solution for one clogged artery that should be heartening news for tens of thousands of motorists.
The well-planned change in the traffic scheme on 5400 South should save people in that area a lot of commuting time.
Every weekday morning, there's an eastbound traffic jam between Redwood Road and Bangerter Highway, and every evening a westbound traffic jam. Nearly 40,000 cars travel that stretch of road daily.
"There's a lot of frustration on the west side because of the congestion they experience on a day-to-day basis," says project manager Brandon Weston.
According to UDOT numbers, during the morning rush hour, when the majority of cars are headed east, it can take motorists 14 minutes to travel the 2-mile distance from Bangerter Highway down to Redwood Road. Meantime, in the other lanes headed west, that same distance only takes six minutes to cover.
To ease that congestion without widening the road, UDOT will use the seven lanes more efficiently. It will redesign the 2-mile stretch with Flex Lanes. That means there well four lanes headed east and two headed west in the morning. and the opposite configuration in the evening.
"What the Flex Lanes are going to do for us is provide an extra traffic lane where we need it, when we need it," Weston says.
UDOT's research shows motorists consider the traffic on 5400 South a big problem, and they think Flex Lanes will help. In the morning, headed east, signal arms over the road will show green arrows over four lanes and red Xs over two westbound lanes. In the evening, you'll have four green arrows headed west. Off peak: three lanes in each direction with a center turn lane, just the way it is now.
Phoenix and Washington, D.C., use reversible lanes on some roads.
Construction on the relatively economical, $5 million project starts next spring. The Flex Lanes open for traffic in about a year.
UDOT says the work should not be too disruptive.
"We'll be taking lanes in off-peak hours to install those signpost foundations, but other than that, the commuters should have all lanes available to them," Weston says.
Utah also plans five new continuous-flow intersections to reduce congestion on Bangerter Highway and Redwood Road.
UDOT will gather more public comment next Tuesday night at Taylorsville City Hall.