Here’s where more SLC road construction is coming in 2024 — and why projects can take so long

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By Usa Express Daily

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After the completion of Salt Lake City’s biggest roadway construction project to date — 300 West — city engineers are gearing up for even more major roadway changes in 2024.

The 300 West reconstruction wrapped up in September, with over 65,000 tons of new asphalt paved along the corridor — plus a new bicycle path and two new, safer crosswalks at Paramount Avenue and American Avenue.

It first began in 2019, but the pandemic brought delays in 2020 — with workforce shortages, material shortages and extended lead times for material deliveries, city engineer Mark Stephens said.

Next year, 2100 South in Sugar House will get a major facelift. But will it take as long as 300 West?

The start of a project

Salt Lake City’s roadway improvements begin with a concept — then go through several design processes before crews ever break ground, said Jon Larsen, the city’s director of transportation.

The city’s transportation and engineering divisions first work together to better scope out a project once it’s funded, allowing communities to offer input. That phase can last a few months or up to a year depending on the size of the project, Larsen said.

Together, engineers also need to analyze community surveys, traffic volumes, crash history and pavement conditions to decide what all needs to be upgraded during construction. They also need to consider the city’s master plans, like the transit master plan and pedestrian-bike master plan.

A hybrid concept is usually what’s ultimately selected, which then serves as the construction roadmap.

Engineers announced the chosen hybrid concept design for 2100 South’s reconstruction in May, which will begin and end with four lanes between 700 East and 1300 East. The roadway will then narrow to two lanes between 1000 East and McClelland Street, and will include elements such as raised medians from the city’s proposed alternative.

Once the concept is chosen, city engineers then take the helm, Larsen said.

“Throughout the whole process, we coordinate really closely with the fire department, public utilities — and if they have to replace water, sewer lines or things, we want to know that,” Larsen said. “Urban forestry gets involved to make sure that we can fit in as many trees if possible.”

That civil design process also often takes about a year, he said.

Construction begins

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Road construction on Highland Drive in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 1, 2023.

As the civil design process unfolds, the city prepares to break ground — informing nearby residents about the outlined phases of the planned construction and preparing for its impacts on the area.

The city then puts the project out to bid for public contractors, Stephens said.

“There will be inconveniences,” Stephens said. “We will work best as we can with the resources that we have to minimize those impacts and inconveniences.”

Each project is different. And some contracts may last years, where others could last months — it all depends on the scope of the design, and how substantial the improvement. Stephens cited a delay with the 200 South project downtown, for instance, which has paused construction for the holiday season.

The second phase of that project will begin next year between 200 East and 400 West, where asphalt and sidewalk will be replaced, but it’s been delayed by utility issues — including a “massive gas trunkline” that was supposed to be installed before the city’s second phase, Larsen said.

When public, private construction coincide

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Road construction along 900 South in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 26, 2023.

During this time, some of the biggest headaches for residents can come when private construction overlaps with city roadwork, which is relatively common. That could happen during the 2100 South project, as a new Trader Joe’s may be coming to the Dee’s parking lot in Sugar House at 2160 S. 700 East, and may increase traffic in the area.

“We’ve got to truly look at and have a symbiotic relationship when it comes to private development and public projects to make sure that phasing is coordinated, that we minimize impacts,” Stephens said, noting that they’ll often meet with all public and private stakeholders to “maximize our productivity and our work.”

The city also has a moratorium for public roadway projects — which means once a project is completed, individuals usually aren’t able to “tear it up” for future projects.

“It’s both a curse and a blessing because, yes, we’re very excited to see the growth of Salt Lake City and its progress and its successes,” Stephens said. “With that comes some challenges.”

Larsen said oftentimes, private developers will work hand-in-hand with a public project, so if the city has already excavated a roadway, a private developer’s crews may go in and add lateral water and sewer lines — even if the private development is a year or two out from its actual construction.

City officials meet monthly to discuss construction plans, including employees from the city redevelopment agency, real estate services and the fire department — to ensure everyone is on the same page, Larsen said.

“Construction is an inevitable part of our lives,” Stephens said. “Like when we go to the doctor, the nurse or the doctor, he or she will say, ‘This shot, you’re going to feel a pinch.’ And it prepares us for that.”

“Does it make the shot any less painful? Probably not,” he added. “But we at least know we’re about to get poked with a needle.”

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