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Hard habit to break: Driver confusion on I-15 in the Salt Lake Valley

New I-15 NB Ramp System in the Salt Lake Valley. (UDOT)

SALT LAKE CITY, UT — Drivers struggling to remember how and where to exit northbound I-15 onto I-215 or 7200 South in the Salt Lake Valley should know you’re not alone. 

Because driving is as often about habits as it is about skills, when major freeway reconstruction happens it can take people longer than they might think to adjust to new traffic patterns.

 “For those of us who have been driving these roads for so many years, we’re almost on automatic pilot,” said Utah Department of Transportation spokesperson John Gleason.  “It’s just re-training our brains.”

Gleason joined KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic to discuss driver confusion about switching from I-15 onto I-215 in Midvale, where the interchange exit for northbound drivers has moved from its former location. The exited used to be near 7200 South but moved to its new spot at 9000 South in Sandy—a full mile earlier than it used to be.

 

Beware of driver changes in the Salt Lake Valley 

“It’s catching a lot of people by surprise,” he said, even though the new configuration has been open since early February and there are multiple signs on the freeway to warn drivers. The first notice is located a mile before the exit, the second a half-mile prior, and the third right at the exit itself.  But that’s apparently not enough for some.

“There is a little bit of a balance. You want to provide enough signs that people understand where they’re going, but not too many that it becomes more confusing,” Gleason explained. 

However, Gleason says UDOT is already planning to add another sign leading onto 9000 South.

There’s also a video on UDOT’s website showing people how to navigate the new interchange so they can be prepared before heading out the door.

Reason for the changes 

According to Gleason, there were two major reasons for UDOT to make the changes to I-15 that they did in Midvale, which is one of the most heavily traveled stretches of the freeway in the Salt Lake Valley. It’s also been a hot spot for a lot of crashes.

Before the new configuration, they observed a lot of vehicles jumping in and out of lanes, and weaving around trying to access 90th South, 7200 South, and I-215.

“With this new ramp system, we expect to reduce crashes by 40%,” Gleason noted. “Anytime we can reduce those and make it a safer environment, that’s really what we’re trying to do here.”  He added the new interchange should also cut travel times through the area in half.

But what it all comes down to, according to Gleason, is changing habits.

“We have to give ourselves some time to acclimate because it’s a big change.”

He says if drivers get close to the I-215 and 9000 South exit and realize they’re not in the correct lane to make it over safely–just accept it and keep going.

“If you miss it, just head on up to 5300 South and turn around.”