Provo City Council discusses new I-15 interchange

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Provo’s two freeway exits have a 5-mile stretch between them, creating a high volume of traffic for commuters and residents. The city council is discussing adding another interchange between Center Street and University Parkway. (Preston Crawley)

The Provo City Council discussed plans to add a freeway interchange between the current University Parkway and Center Street exits on I-15 during a Jan. 12 meeting with state legislators.

Provo’s two largest employers, BYU and Utah Valley Hospital, are in the middle of Provo and thus equidistant from both freeway interchanges. Neither exit provides a direct route to either employer, which creates a very large volume of traffic at both exits, and the density of the traffic is more than the current roads can handle.

“Center Street is carrying a higher percentage maybe of traffic that moves from the freeway to BYU and to the hospital than it can support,” said Provo’s chief administrative officer Wayne Parker. “The University Parkway interchange, we all recognize, is recently upgraded but already beyond capacity.”

According to Utah Highway Patrol, there is a high volume of accidents that occur on the long stretch of freeway between the University Parkway and Center Street exits. Adding an interchange between the two could help lower the number of accidents that stretch of freeway is currently experiencing.

“I leave before rush hour everyday but the traffic is still bad,” said Paige Zobell, a Provo resident and student teacher at American Fork Junior High School. “We always debate what freeway entrance we should take because we can never decide which one is worse. If there were to be an exit in between that took us more directly to campus and where we live, we would probably take that one.”

The City Council has been discussing Provo’s transportation plan for about a year. Adding a freeway interchange between the Center Street and University Parkway exits makes the most sense for regional transportation planning, the council said.

“One of the things that we struggled with was this idea of Provo as a central city (with) large employment base in the community (and) a lot of draw from commuters coming into and out of the city,” Parker said. “What are the best ways to try to address our role as a regional transportation hub, while still respecting the desire to keep neighborhoods whole and to not create real challenges for specific parts of the city.”

Developing the plans for the new freeway interchange is a collaborative process. The current plans could have a major impact on Provo neighborhoods. This makes citizen input a vital part of the planning process. The city says it plans to gather citizen data to help guide what changes should be made to the freeway.

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