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
As an effort to maintain continuity to benefit the motoring public, the state of Utah opted to redesignate the entire Salt Lake City Belt Route as just I-215. A petition by the Utah State Department of Highways to AASHTO on October 14, 1968 was approved in 1969 to both eliminate I-415 from I-15 in south Murray northeast to I-80 near the mouth of Parleys Canyon and extend I-215 over the same route.
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