SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Touted as a transportation lifesaver for residents in Lehi, American Fork, Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain, the six-mile-long Pioneer Crossing is now open.
At 7:30 a.m. Monday, Gov. Gary Herbert, Congressman Jim Matheson, and Rep. Kenneth W. Sumsion pressed buttons on electronic road signs that announced "Pioneer Crossing Open" to the relief of hundreds of commuters who will use the new seven-lane road.
"We know this is the work of many people," Gov. Herbert said. "We have a Legislature who understands the importance of transportation. We are a fast growing state, and Utah County is the fastest growing area, it is becoming the epicenter."
Herbert acknowledged more than 200 transportation projects throughout the state and referred to the long-term benefits of Pioneer Crossing, particularly the commercial development that will come. That development will provide jobs and a stronger economy.
"This isn't easy," said Matheson, D-Utah. "A project of this magnitude takes so much effort."
Matheson said in covering the northern most part of Utah County the issue he has heard the most about is transportation.
Sumsion welcomed those attending the opening to his district, the largest in the state. Sumsion currently represents 90,000 residents, but that number is expected to surge to 300,000 by 2030.
"Transportation is an economic engine," Sumsion said. "We are on the verge of another huge explosion. This is the eastern solution on what's going to come further west."
Sumsion compared Pioneer Crossing and the vision of what is coming to the vision Brigham Young had of this valley and how he laid out wide roads and transportation for the future.
"This is Brigham Young-esque vision. Today we enjoy a little piece of that," Sumsion said.
Utah County Commissioner Steve White reflected on the need for the new connector road and the relief it will give the commuter logjam every morning and evening on Lehi's Main Street. "We are grateful to have this open, particularly for residents who have been crawling on their hands and knees down Main Street," White said. "To residents on the west side of the county -- many happy returns."
The $260 million project features only the second Diverging Diamond Interchange in the U.S. Other DDI's will be used during the I-15 CORE Project in Utah County. The DDI configuration is safe and efficient, because movement is governed by only two signal phases as opposed to the more traditional three or more, according to UDOT officials.
Work on Pioneer Crossing has been underway since ground was broken for the project in January 2009. The Kiewit/Clyde joint venture has also completed work on the DDI and new lands on I-15 in conjunction with the I-15 CORE project, as well as some additional work linking American Fork Main Street with U.S. Highway 89 in American Fork.
While the new road will bring future business to the area, current businesses have worked hard at keeping their clientele. Several local businesses have survived the lengthy Main Street construction process in American Fork and are eager to welcome back customers. To celebrate the milestone opening, Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill and nine other businesses adjacent to I-15 are hosting a customer appreciation week in conjunction with the road opening.
Because of the difficult traffic conditions, many people have avoided the area immediately east of the American Fork Main street freeway exit, or may not know all of the restaurants and services available in the area. To help spread the word about the new easy-access, customers can enjoy special offerings from several businesses through Saturday.