Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I-80 Reconstruction

The I-80 State Street to 1300 East project lies between my home and downtown. Here's what UDOT has to say about it:
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has completed the environmental study for I-80, from State Street to 1300 East, and the project is now moving forward with the design and construction phases.

As a part of this project, the following improvements will be constructed:

* Additional General Purpose Lane: Eastbound and Westbound
* Interchange Improvements at State Street, 700 East, and 1300 East
* Auxiliary Lane between Each Interchange: Eastbound and Westbound
* Retaining Walls to Reduce Right-of-Way Impacts
* Residential Noise/SoundWalls in Qualified Areas (for more information about residential noise walls, click here)
* New Concrete Pavement
* New Bridges at State Street (funding pending), 300 East, 500 East, 600 East, 700 East, 900 East, and Highland Drive

The following is an overview of the project’s construction schedule*:

Truck Detour Information
In order to reduce impacts along this narrow corridor of I-80, UDOT, in association with the Utah Trucking Association, is strongly advising all truck drivers to use alternate routes during construction. Please click here for a detour map.

Phase I: Begins late-August 2007
Temporarily widen the eastbound bridges and construct crossovers at each end of the project to accommodate 5 lanes of traffic (3 lanes /2 lanes).

Phase II: Begins December 8, 2007
Reconstruction of the westbound lanes.

Phase III: Begins Fall 2008
Reconstruction of the eastbound lanes.

Phase IV: Begins Summer 2009
Completion of the eastbound lanes

Interestingly, there's also this:
In order to accommodate traffic during construction, crews will temporarily widen the eastbound bridges and construct crossovers at each end of the project to accommodate 5 lanes of traffic (3 lanes / 2 lanes). This will allow for a reversible lane to be utilized during peak traffic hours. For a graphic showing how the reversible lanes will be used click here.

This means that they bought some fancy new machine that moves concrete barricades from one side of a lane to the other, in order to allow that lane to move to the east or west bound side, so that there's 2 lanes of traffic on one side, and 3 on the other, allowing them to accommodate rush hour a little better.

Sounds nifty!

And, really, it is. But, there's a problem. On mornings like this one, where it's raining, and the rain isn't quite sure if it wants to become snow, or not, the lane closest to the barricades is unusable.

Let's back up a moment. It's bad enough that when there is bad weather in Utah, the roads become much more dangerous than they have to be, because you can't see the lane markings, even when it's just rain. To add insult to injury, I-80 markings are barely visible in the daytime. So, add lots of rain to the morning commute before the sun has come up, and you cannot see the barricade, which you are expected to drive within 12 inches of.

So, you find yourself, much like I did this morning, driving in to work, minding your own business, and using the left lane (next to the barricade) because most people will need to exit from one of the right two lanes, so this one has fewer vehicles in it. Then, you come upon the barricades, just after having slowed to 55 MPH, and wonder why there's literally no one in your lane ahead of you, while the other two lanes are bumper to bumper. Within moments, you realize that it's because they've probably tried this lane, and found that it's suicide. Not only are the lane markers invisible, but you're pretty sure that the invisible barricades would cause some issues were you to guess wrong as to their location. You try to get over to the center lane, like the rest of humanity, only to find that it's impossible to squeeze between the tightly packed cars traveling 55 MPH. See? Suicide.

There are small reflectors on top of the barricades, but headlights do not hit them from the angle that they are on, so they don't help at all.

Combining this with the experience of having the construction workers put cones to mark traffic lanes recently, and occasionally slipping one out of the otherwise straight line and into your narrow lane, forcing you to choose between hitting the cone, possibly knocking yourself into the next lane of traffic, or just heading over there in the first place to avoid the cone. Nice choice, huh?

And then there's the fact that there is one stretch of eastbound lane that isn't wide enough for a semi-truck. Semis are advised to take alternates, but they don't have to. So, I'm traveling along in the right lane and a semi started to pass me on the left. I had a barricade on the right, so there was nowhere to go when I realized the semi was in my lane and coming closer. I'm literally not sure how he didn't hit us, I think he had to have grazed my mirror. My boyfriend said he saw the same thing I did, so I wasn't just being paranoid. I let off the gas, afraid that even a slight pull to either side from braking would be the last thing my Jeep ever did, and then when he finally passed I began to breathe again, as well as start screaming.

I quit driving in that lane going eastbound, and I make a point of not allowing semis to pass me on that road if I can at all help it. I didn't drive I-80 for at least a month, until I forgot one day and realized that the cones were not being moved daily anymore.

But, I can't really take an extra 30 minutes to get home, I don't have enough time as it is. So, I guess this will be a daily suicide routine until sometime after summer, 2009.

Or I can move. Now that's tempting.

1 comment:

  1. I had the exact same experience this morning on I-80. Can't see the lines, can't really see the barricades well when it's dark and wet, etc.
    Pretty scary. But what are the alternatives? Leave 30 minutes earlier in the morning and get home 30 minutes later to take alternates? No thanks. I guess I'll keep trying my luck.


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