UDOT's 5600 W Road Widening Project to Include Some Improvements for Bicycles But with an Unsafe Interchange for Bicycle and Pedestrians
Comments Due by November 2, 2018
October 30, 2018 – UDOT held an open house last week on proposed changes to 5600 West in Salt Lake City from the 2100 S interchange to I-80 interchange – approximately 3.2 miles. The proposal has a few perks for cyclists – wider shoulders and a 12′ shared sidewalk/bike path that appears to run from 2100 S to about 150 S and does not extend over 1-80. The project cost will be $71,650,000- $65,548,097 from the Federal Government and $6,101,903 from the State of Utah. The industrial area is slated for more development with the impending Inland Port and the increase in warehouses and truck traffic. As such, the area, combined with the International Center and the Inland Port, will become a major employment center that will require safe ways for all users to access their place of work. The project is slated for constuction in Spring of 2019 through Fall of 2020.
5600 W in this area is on the Salt Lake City Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan from 2015. The recommendations of the plan include a protected or buffered bike lane on the roadway. The UDOT project does not meet those recommendations across I-80. It is also listed as part of the priority bike network on the Wasatch Front Regional Council's bike map.
UDOT states the rationale for the project on their 5600 W project page:
Purpose: The purpose of the project is to improve mobility, increase roadway capacity, and reduce delay along 5600 West and at the I-80 interchange.
Need: 5600 West currently experiences unacceptable levels of congestion and delay due to the rail crossing, heavy vehicle use, and heavy freight truck traffic. Both AM and PM traffic is expected to exceed the available road capacity during peak hours in 2050 if no improvements are made.
The current roadway conditions for 5600 W in this area are dismal for bikes – 50 mph traffic with essentially no shoulder – so commuting and recreational cyclists need steady nerves to navigate the roadway from West Valley to the International Center. In this view, the roadway plan is a great improvement for cyclists. They will now have a space to ride either in the shoulder (with a blender zone as intersections are approached) and a shared use pathway on part of the route. The proposed Direct Diamond Interchange (DDI) at I-80 and 5600 W. is severely problematic for cyclists, however.
The project would see the following changes according to the UDOT Project page:
- Add sidewalk on east side and shared use path on west side
- Convert existing I-80 interchange to DDI
- Reconfigure all intersections and traffic signal phasing
- Widen from two to five lanes with shoulders
- Build bridge over UPRR tracks
- Add curb and gutter and improve storm drain systems
With increased development in the area, pedestrian and bicycle traffic will increase along with increased car and truck traffic, as people will commute from West Valley City, Magna, and Salt Lake City to the project area and to the International Center. Additionally, recreational cyclists have long used this route to get from Salt Lake City to the International Center.
- Shared use path/sidewalk on the west side of 5600 W from 2100 S to 150 S
- The shared use path will eventually provide a safe route to get from 5600 W to the Mountain View Corridor bike path alongside the Mountain View Corridor Freeway. It is unknown when the MVC will be constructed in the area as there is no current funding for it.
- Wide shoulders where there are currently none.
- A sidewalk on the east side for pedestrians.
- The bridge at approximately 800 S over the Union Pacific Railway Tracks.
- Irrationally high speed limits – The current speed on the roadway is 50 mph. The project calls for keeping speeds the same. At 50 mph, from 2100 S to I-80 takes 3.84 minutes (for an estimated 3.2 miles). At 30 mph, the same distance is 6.4 minutes. Speed is a dominant factor in the severity of crashes. Lower speeds would protect bikes and pedestrians.
- Blender zones at the intersections for cyclists that ride in the roadway – the shoulder disappears and turns into a shared turn lane.
- Crossings of the side streets on the shared use paths – crossings like this are often problematic for cyclists when cars and trucks are turning across the crosswalk.
- Wide lanes – 12′ lanes and a 14′ center turn lane encourage higher speeds and are not up to date with current roadway traffic calming. 10 to 11′ lanes would be better.
- A proposed bike lane in the midst of the DDI. Yes, it's good to have a bike lane, but the 4′ proposed lane (according to the consultants at the open house) would run between the right most through-traffic lane and the right turning lane onto I-80.
- A short comment period that doesn't allow time for the public to participate. Additionally, the project pages don't contain complete information.
- DDI's can be problematic for drivers too and can result in head on collisions.
- Is the DDI even needed? It's expensive, and there doesn't seem to be much need for it. See the photo below.
The impossibly awful, scary, and dangerous
- The Diverging Diamond Interchange – is this even necessary? It's unsafe, and if it were not constructed, project costs would be reduced dramatically.
- The right turn lanes on the DDI. Here, cyclists would be riding in the midst of 50 mph traffic to the left and right of the rider. Cars and trucks would not be looking for cyclists to merge into the bike lane as they are turning right to accelerate onto I-80. This is bound to cause many severe injuries and potentially deaths to vulnerable cyclists.
- The right turn lanes on the DDI and pedestrians. Crossing the right turn lane for a potentially non-existent sidewalk in the center of the DDI means that I-80 will remain an impenetrable barrier for pedestrians. The project diagrams show no crosswalks or pedestrian lights through the DDI. There doesn't seem to be a pedestrian sidewalk or walkway across the bridge over I-80.
- We firmly believe that the DDI, especially the right turn lanes, is not safe for cyclists or pedestrians, and will cause injuries or deaths.
What can be done to fix this?
- Lower the speed limit to 30 mph from 2100 S to I-80. This would only add about 2 minutes to commute times. Lowering speed limits – contrary to current thinking among traffic engineers, who rely on the outdated and junk engineering 85 percentile rule of setting speed limits to what speed people are driving – do lower speeds according to a new study. Note that lower speed limits don't generally lower throughput of traffic since there is less accordion effect at intersections.
- Add a full width bike lane across the DDI in both directions, not the 4′ lane that the consultants spoke of in the open house.
- Add a pedestrian sidewalk across I-80 to the International Center.
- Narrow the traffic lanes from 2100 S to I-80. This would change the design to encourage lower speeds.
- Add marked on-road bike lanes on 5600 W from 2100 S to the International Center in addition to the shared use pathway.
- Lower the speeds on 5600 W in the International Center to be consistent with 5600 W.
- Place pedestrian and bike activated signals in the DDI for safe ingress and egress.
- Plan for a future bike and pedestrian bridge over I-80. At $71 million dollars, perhaps it could be included in this project.
- Make sure that there is a safe route for cyclists from 2100 S and 5600 W to and through the International Center.
- Make sure that there is a safe route for cyclists from 300 S to the International Center. This will include a safe crossing at 300 S.
- Lower the speed limits in the project area. This is so important, we are stating this twice.
What you can do:
- Review UDOT's 5600 W project page. See the downloads tab for more information.
- Email comments by November 2, 2018. Feel free to copy and paste from this article especially the section above.
- Ask for safe bike and pedestrian accommodations on 5600 W especially at the I-80 DDI interchange.
- Ask UDOT to follow Salt Lake City's and the Wasatch Front Regional Council's bike plans.
- Ask them to reconsider building the Diverging Diamond Interchange.
- Email the project team at [email protected]