Leavitt Authorizes Study on I-15 in Utah Co.

Leavitt Authorizes Study on I-15 in Utah Co.

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(Salt Lake City - KSL News/AP) -- State officials are trying to take on a transportation crisis in Utah County.

Today U-DOT announced a major first step towards addressing serious traffic jams south of point of the mountain.

Gov. Mike Leavitt has authorized a $5 million environmental impact study of Interstate 15 in Utah County.

Set to begin later this fall, the study is part of a look at addressing the county's transportation needs amid fears that without some improvement, the already heavily congested freeway will only get worse.

The highway through Utah County is one of the most congested stretches of freeway in the state. Experts expect its use to double over the next 30 years.

"We will uphold this generation's obligation to the next by carefully studying the transportation options as Utah County continues to grow," Leavitt said Monday.

UDOT will work with the Utah Transit Authority and local planners to review a "shared solution" during the study.

Lawmakers earlier this year moved to take $100 million from the Centennial Highway Fund as a way to help balance Utah's budget. But officials said the short-term solution caused long-range transportation problems for Utah County, where I-15 feeds Provo, Orem and other cities.

According to a study by the Mountainland Association of Governments, traffic along major chunks of I-15 in the county would be "in failure" soon with the number of cars exceeding capacity.

County leaders and state transportation planners say little can be done to alleviate the problem without restoration of Centennial Highway funding or new revenue sources.

No work on the interstate will take place until the impact study is completed, expected within three years.

Lawmakers are using the $59 million still allotted annually in the Centennial Highway Fund to pay off current projects, and there are no plans for a new fund after 2017. That means I-15 and other upgrades in Utah County may be delayed 10 to 20 years.

By 2010, according to the association's models, I-15 between the Point of the Mountain and the University Parkway exit will be at a virtual standstill during peak periods.

(Associated Press contributed to this story)

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