If you commute to work on I-15 in Utah, you have no doubt heard of the infamous stretch of road that connects Utah and Salt Lake Counties, the Point of the Mountain. If you have the misfortune of commuting this part of the freeway during rush hour then you are all too familiar with the gridlock that plagues the Point of the Mountain.
Having to do this everyday has prompted me to brainstorm solutions to the traffic problems at the POM. Let me know if you think of any others.
1. Maintain your Speed
When you are traveling uphill you should maintain your speed as much as possible. It is unsafe for your vehicle’s speed to drop 10-15 mph when going up the Point of the Mountain (POM). Drops in speed can impact the drivers behind you negatively as they are required to brake and change lanes to avoid collisions. Please keep in mind that slow driving is not always safe driving. If your speed is so slow that the cars are piling up behind you then you are contributing to hazardous driving conditions and are also breaking the law.
In most situations this is something that you can control if you are alert and accelerate slightly as you reach the POM hill.
2. Pick an Appropriate Lane
You can be issued a citation for impeding traffic if a vehicle is following behind you in the left lane of travel on a multi-lane highway and you do not change lanes and allow for the other vehicle to pass. The left lane on freeways is for passing only, unless there is heavy traffic. If another vehicle wants to pass you, you must move safely to the right, and you may not increase your speed until they have safely passed you.
3. Don’t Brake Uphill
Unless it is absolutely unavoidable it is important that you not brake while heading up the POM hill. All too often, drivers will rely on their brakes instead of utilizing gravity as a friend to coast to a slower speed, only to realize moments later that they didn’t need to brake and they have to accelerate to get back up to an adequate speed. Meanwhile, the cars behind will feel the effect of your brake tapping and the effects cascade contributing to the slowdown.
Try coasting before you tap on those brakes.
4. No Highway Patrol
These brave men and women are on the roads to keep us safe and act as a deterrent for many of those reckless drivers. However, I propose that during rush hour the Highway Patrol stays clear of the Point of the Mountain.
You have seen it before whenever a patrol car is present, especially with their lights blazing, slowdowns and gridlock ensue. Drivers will often slow down below the posted speed limit just to avoid any appearance of wrongdoing or they rubberneck to be a part of whatever might be occurring on the side of the road.
If the Highway Patrol were to do their part and stay clear during this time frame it could be very helpful in easing the congestion.
5. Learn to Merge
The freeway entrance that seems to bog down Point of the Mountain Traffic is the SR-92 –Alpine/Highland entrance in Utah County. While it is metered during most of rush hour, drivers consistently have trouble because of the variances in which they choose to merge. Here it is straight from the Utah Driver’s Handbook:
- Look for an opening while you are on the entrance ramp.
- Speed up to freeway speed while you are in the acceleration lane.
- Merge into the right-hand lane without disrupting the flow of traffic on the freeway. Do not force yourself into traffic. You must wait until it is safe to enter the traffic flow on the freeway.
- Do not cross over the solid white line to enter a traffic lane.”
If you are merging into a lane of traffic, you must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles traveling on the continuing lane of traffic that are close enough to be an immediate threat.
Merging is an art that we should all master. Unfortunately, it is evident on Utah roads that merging has become a lost art.
6. Carpool/Express Lane
There are some obvious benefits to carpooling and/or using the Express Lane such as reducing the number of cars on the road. UTA Rideshare presents a myriad of options available to drivers that are conscious of the environmental impact of driving and those that just don’t want to deal with the POM.
7. Public Transportation
This point has similar benefits to the one above but it works to remove even more cars from the road. Frontrunner is a terrific option, especially if you work downtown.
8. Work From Home
We are in an age where tele-commuting is a common and valuable practice. If you are lucky enough to have this flexibility with work then take advantage of it. If you aren’t sure if it’s a possibility you should inquire about it anyway. Then you can keep your old boat at home.
9. Take the Back Roads
20 years ago, I-15 was the pretty much the only thoroughfare in and out of Utah County. Today, that is still pretty much the case, although you will find a few alternatives if you are willing to go off the beaten path. Redwood Road or SR-73 and the frontage roads on either side of I-15 are viable detours in the event of heavy traffic. You could even take the road that goes over the top of Suncrest.
If you are commuting to SLC from Utah County and all points south it might behoove you to move closer to your destination. This will certainly be less headache for you, and if you are a poor driver it will be less of a headache for the rest of us.