Interstate 215 is the belt route for Salt Lake City in Utah. Starting at the northern end of the city at its junction with Interstate 15, it closely parallels I-15 south toward Sandy, then turns east and then north to meet Interstate 80. As such, Interstate 215 provides a bypass for both Interstates 15 and 80 while also connecting with Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC).
With 1997-July 2001 reconstruction of Interstate 15 and closures of Interstate 80 in 1998 and 1999, Interstate 215 defaulted as the main through route. With completion of those major projects, Interstate 215 returned to its role as an alternate and commuter route.
The original plan for the Salt Lake City Belt Route divided the freeway into a 17.5 mile western two quadrants, Interstate 215, and a 11.6 mile eastern portion, Interstate 415. The $65 million freeway was separated into nine Sections and was expected to be completed in 1974. The initial segment of the Belt Route opened by 1963 as a two-lane access road linking 2100 North with Utah 68 (Redwood Road) to improve access to Salt Lake Municipal Airport. A second section under construction by 1963 was the I-415 link with Interstate 80 at the mouth of Parleys Canyon.1
Work in 1968 included completion of the I-215 link between 2200 North and Interstate 15 at the north end of the Belt Route. Land clearing was also underway in 1968 for I-415 southward from I-80 at Parleys Canyon. Bids for work on the Belt Route from there to 4500 South were taken in March 1968.1
Construction was scheduled for September 1968 to build Section Number 2, from 2200 South to I-80 with completion expected in 1970. This portion was delayed until the 1980s, as where sections south of I-80 on the west side of Salt Lake City and the southeastern belt route due to public opposition. The original Nine Sections were as follows with their projected completion dates:1
Section 1 – 2200 North to I-15, opened in 1968
Section 2 – Interstate 80 to 2200 North, projected for 1972
Section 3 – 2100 South to Interstate 80, projected for March 1969 to late 1972
Section 4 – 4700 South to 2100 South, projected for June 1970 to late 1972
Section 5 – Utah 68 (Redwood Road) by 6200 South to 4700 South, projected for late 1972 with Section 6
Section 6 – Interstate 15 west to Utah 68 (Redwood Road), under construction in 1968, projected for late 1972
Section 7 – Interstate 15 to 200 East, projected for late 1972 with Section 6
Section 8 – 2000 East to Wasatch Boulevard, projected from March 1971 to late 1973
Section 9 – Wasatch Boulevard north to Interstate 80, under construction from April 1968 to late 1970
Interstate 415 was indeed signed as this late 1960s photo showed along Interstate 15 north. This photo was found in the Utah State Archives and scanned by AARoads Forum Member CL.
The alignment for a 6.5 mile section of the southeast belt route, through Holladay and Cottonwood, was endorsed by the Utah Transportation Commission on December 17, 1975.2 Of five alternatives outlined, Alternative A-6 was selected from the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS was prepared after area residents along the corridor filed suit over the controversial southeast quadrant in July 1973. Preliminary findings of the study indicated that the completed portions of the Belt Route north and west would not be used to their full potential without completion of the section in between. It also added that congestion and air pollution levels would increase along major arterials due to expected growth through 1995.3
Alternative A-6, which favored a vacant area between 900 East and 1300 East, included three interchanges and ran east from 300 East / 6800 South to Knudsens Corners (6200 South / 2000 East) and north to the preexisting I-215 at 4500 South.2 Despite the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) adopting the final EIS on March 4, 1977, the section was still contested by area residents, the Cottonwood, Inc. citizen group and Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson. Opponents claimed that the endorsement by UDOT of the EIS was done without discussion, paving the way to submit the statement to the Federal Highway Administration. The proposed beltway along 6200 South called for a depressed design 20 to 30 feet below grade, requiring a relocation of Little Cottonwood Creek onto an aqueduct. Concerns for air quality, runoff, drainage and flood problems were cited.4
A lawsuit was eventually filed by Cottonwood, Inc., but the court did not grant the injunction, allowing work to proceed on completing the route. A closure of the Belt Route from 300 East to 700 East took place on June 4, 1979 in preparation for excavation work. Subsequent construction was divided into five sections.5 Delays however continued through the next decade.
Construction on I-215 from 1100 East (Exit 9) to Highland Drive (Exit 8) was completed by November 1987. Work on three additional sections remained scheduled through late 1988. They included segments from Highland Drive east to 6400 South and north to 4500 South (Exit 5), from 2000 North / 2000 West (Exit 25) south to I-80 (Exit 22) and 2100 South / 2000 West (Exit 20) north to I-80.6
The Belt Route western section was completed on October 7, 1988 with the opening of I-215 between Interstate 80 and 2100 South. The six-lane, 3.2 mile section cost $36.6 million. The southeast section, from 6500 South to 3300 East remained under construction for another 18 months.7
The first guide sign for the access road linking Interstate 215 north with I-80 east through Parleys Canyon appears at the 3900 South on-ramp from Holladay. Exit 2 departs in 1.5 miles, while the I-215 mainline extends directly to I-80 west in 2.8 miles. Photo taken 07/08/16.
Exit 2 branches northeast from I-215, one half mile north of Utah 171 (Exit 3). Interstate 80 ascends through Parleys Canyon from Salt Lake City to Kimball Junction. The freeway serves eastern bedroom communities located within the Park City area such as Silver Creek Junction. I-80 east also serves the Park City and Deer Valley ski resorts on the eastern slopes of the Wasatch Range. Photo taken 07/08/16.
The northeastern prong of I-215 consists of a super-two road from Exit 2 to I-80 over the former alignment of Utah 5. The northwestern prong parallels I-80 west to merge with the freeway directly at the Salt Lake City line. Photo taken 07/08/16.
An I-80 trailblazer directs motorists from Exit 2 onto the super two roadway as it winds around the north slopes of Grandeur Peak. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/16/06).
Following the super two roadway from Exit 2 to the wye interchange with Interstate 80 east. This configuration is partially due to the lack of space at the mouth of Parleys Canyon. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/16/06).
Exit 1 links Interstate 215 north with Utah 186 west (Foothill Drive) and Parleys Way for eastern reaches of Salt Lake City. Utah 186 angles northwest to the University of Utah campus while Parleys Way parallels I-80 west through Sugar House to 2100 South and 2300 East. Photo taken 09/08/05.
Traffic from Utah 186 (Foothill Drive) eastbound merges onto Interstate 215 north ahead of its merge with Interstate 80 west. Photo taken 09/08/05.
Historic Perspective from Interstate 215 (outer) north
I-215 guide signs for Exit 2 and the connection with I-80 east to Cheyenne, Wyoming were replaced by 2014. Photo taken 09/08/05.
I-215 drops below grade beside Wasatch Boulevard and under the SR 171 (3300 South) overpass. Wasatch Boulevard parallels the northbound lanes of Interstate 215 closely between Millcreek Road and a dead end beside Exit 2. Photo taken 09/08/05.
Perspective from Interstate 80 west
Descending rapidly from the high desert of Wyoming and ski resorts of Park City to the flats of Salt Lake City, Interstate 80 winds through Parleys Canyon to enter Salt Lake Valley. A lane drop occurs on the westbound lanes for Exit 130 to the super two roadway linking I-80 with I-215 south at Canyon Rim in 1.25 miles. Photo taken 08/25/14.
Signs for the belt route use no control city. The freeway forms a 270 degree beltway for the city of Salt Lake, with the southeastern quadrant serving the suburbs such of Canyon Rim, Holladay, Cottonwood Heights, Midvale and Murray. Photo taken 08/25/14.
The wye interchange (Exit 130) with Interstate 215 is located at the mouth of Parleys Canyon. Photo taken 08/25/14.
Exit 130 leaves Interstate 80 west as the freeway exits Parleys Canyon ahead of the Country Club neighborhood of Salt Lake City. Utah 186 (Foothill Drive) spurs north from the ending I-215 nearby to run along former U.S. 40 Alternate toward Downtown. Photo taken 08/25/14.
Perspective from Interstate 80 east
Interstate 80 east traverses a valley fed by Parleys Creek ahead of the wye interchange (Exit 128) with Interstate 215 south. The two freeways parallel one another to SR 186 (Foothill Drive). Photo taken 08/10/16.
Two lanes separate from I-80 east for the beginning of Interstate 215. The belt route turns south from Foothill Boulevard to run between the Canyon Rim community and Grandeur Peak. Photo taken 08/10/16.
Perspective from Utah 186 (Foothill Drive) east
With the mighty Wasatch Range in view, Utah 186 (Foothill Drive) comes to an end as the road splits with ramps for Parleys Way west to the Country Club neighborhood of Salt Lake and Interstate 80. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/16/06).
A loop ramp departs SR 186 (Foothill Drive) for I-80 west to Sugar House in Salt Lake and I-80 east to Parleys Canyon and Park City. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/16/06).
Foothill Drive contributes two lanes to Interstate 215 south, which also carries incoming lanes from Interstate 80 east. The freeway hugs the foothills of the Wasatch Front until it turns west from the city of Holladay. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/16/06).
North End – North Salt Lake, Utah
Perspective from Interstate 15 south
Interstate 15 enters the city of North Salt Lake at Exit 315 with Utah 93 (2600 South), two miles north of the split with Interstate 215 south. The Salt Lake City belt route provides a bypass for travelers bound for Provo, Las Vegas and other points south. Photo taken 07/08/16.
A pair of lanes branch away from I-15 south for Interstate 215 in one mile. I-215 initially leads west to SR 68 (Redwood Road) before it merges with SR 67 (Legacy Parkway) south into Salt Lake County. The belt route continues from there to Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). Photo taken 07/08/16.
Back to back ramps depart Interstate 15 south for I-215 and U.S. 89 (Beck Street). I-215 provides part of a bypass for Interstate 80 west to Wendover, Elko and Reno, Nevada. The belt route returns to I-15 at Exit 298. Photo taken 07/08/16.
Historic Perspective from Interstate 15 south
Extension of the I-15 Express Lanes northward added a sixth southbound lane through North Salt Lake. Work in 2015 included the installation of new signs for U.S. 89 and I-215. Photo taken 09/08/05.
Large arrow-per-lane (APL) signs replaced the subsequent set of overheads for the wye interchange (Exit 313) with Interstate 215 south on I-15 south. Photo taken 09/08/05.
Interstate 15 leads due south toward Downtown Salt Lake City while I-215 travels by the Westpointe, Jordan Meadows and Glendale neighborhoods of Salt Lake to West Valley City. Photo taken 09/08/05.
"Belt Freeway Construction Shows Continued Progress." The Deseret News, February 24, 1968.
"Five alternatives for design of I-215." The Deseret News, March 26, 1975.
"State endorses I-215 belt route." The Deseret News, December 12, 1975.
"Citizen group girds for battle to halt I-215 belt route." The Deseret News, April 22, 1977.
"Work begins on segment of belt route." The Deseret News, June 4, 1979.
"Belt route – section by section." The Deseret News, July 30, 1987.
"Delay in opening I-215 interchange questioned." The Deseret News, September 30, 1988.
"105 Miles Planned For Utah's Interstate." The Deseret News, January 11, 1969.
Interstate 415 was mostly unconstructed before the designation was dropped in favor of a longer Interstate 215. Two short sections of I-415 were opened to traffic by 1969: a 0.6 mile spur from I-15 to Utah 68 (Redwood Road) at Murray and a 3.1 mile section from Parleys Canyon to 4500 South.7
I-215 mostly served local Salt Lake City area traffic in 1978.
Salt Lake City in 1978. The western section of I-215 leading north and south of I-80 and the southeast quadrant would remain incomplete for another ten years.