A representative from Stanley Consultants, the engineering firm designing the Helper interchange, made a presentation to the city council during a regular meeting on Dec. 16.
The Helper city interchange on United States Highway 6 has been in a discussion stage for several years.
In late 2003, two series of bids were entertained by the Utah Department of Transportation.
Each time, the lowest bidder was approximately $6 million above project estimates, despite a redesign mid-way through the project to reduce costs and a significant increase of the project budget.
The project had since been put on hold to re-evalute plans and determine how to proceed. The presentation by Bob Jacobs of Stanley Consultants was the first renewal of discussion in many months.
"We had thought that it had been forgotten, but it hasn't," commented Helper Mayor Joe Bonacci.
According to Jacobs, the purpose of the visit was to keep the city abreast of a few major changes that had been made to the scope of interchange in a effort to further reduce costs.
First, the firm intends to remove the bridge at the intersection of Martin Road and Main Street.
The area will be reduced to right ins and right outs only.
Second, improvements to the 10th North intersection will be made with the addition of turning lanes.
Finally, the firm is considering to have only the eastbound lanes built until the traffic needs increase enough to add the westbound lanes.
To start, traffic heading both directions would share the eastbound lanes.
Mike Miles, the UDOT supervising engineer for U.S. 6, said the reduction in plans does not eliminate the transportation department's ability to eventually add all the features of the full-scale interchange.
"After our second bid, we decided we had to draw back and reduce the scope of the project," he stated. "But, we will set it up as such that it can be built as we originally had it."
Miles indicated that the biggest effect to Helper residents will be the Martin Road interchange, where intentions to build a bridge were removed from the current plans.
UDOT's intention with the change was to move the most awkward connection between the city of Helper and the highway to the least populated area, pointed out Miles. And, the ability to add a bridge at a later date to the intersection will remain feasible in the project design.
"The goal we've had all along was to stitch Helper back together," he added.
Miles said the new bid package should be done by late April or early May. However, UDOT may wait until later in the summer to let the bid in order to attract more and possibly lower bidders.
Once the bid is let, Miles predicts the project to take approximately one year, although it may extend to 14-16 months.
"It's gonna be a big project," he commented. "We will maintain two lane traffic on the highway. It may be slow, but you'll be able to get through."
The addition of the interchange is not without opponents, though. Many residents have reasoned that the problem could be as easily solved by adding a stoplight to the intersection, much like the stoplights through Spanish Fork.
However, the Utah Department of Transportation asserts that the stoplights are not the most efficient way to go and an increase of accidents have been shown at such intersections.