ST. GEORGE – Weekend travelers headed southbound on Interstate 15 through the Virgin River Gorge were not a happy lot. Sunday, in particular, proved to be a bad day for motorists. Multi-hour delays and miles of backed-up traffic led to less-than-complimentary reviews for the Arizona Department of Transportation. In response, ADOT is changing its hours of operation in the Gorge.
Since the end of July, ADOT has been repaving sections of I-15 through the Gorge. As work progresses, ADOT issues advisories to the public on road restrictions associated with the repaving, along with a general schedule of when and where the repaving will take place. The latest advisory was for Aug. 11-13. Travel would be restricted to a single lane between the hours of 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. MST, and speed was to be lowered to 45 mph in the construction zone.
In theory, things should have progressed smoothly, even with the lowered speed limited. However, that wasn’t the case.
On Saturday, St. George News reader Stephen Hughes posted on the St. George News Facebook page: “…I-15 in the gorge, southbound only is backed up 7 miles due to road paving, expect 1-plus hour delays.”
Sunday, however, is when travelers’ woes really picked up.
Hughes posted: “Traffic is backed up to Utah state line, approximately 10 miles. Use alt route if you are going south.”
Susan Sanders also posted: “My daughter (was) stuck in that gorge trying to get to (Las Vegas) airport to pick up her husband. They should just close the gorge and make people go the old Highway 91…a four hour wait to get through.”
Comments on St. George News website under ADOT’s weekend advisory followed much the same vein as the Facebook posters.
Weekender wrote: “Traveled through on Sunday and traffic was terrible, took three hours to get through. That being said I appreciate the work getting done, it was desperately needed.”
Mackenzie Kirby, a spokeswoman for ADOT, said they had received many comments on the delay in the Gorge. “We expected some delays, but nothing like this,” she said.
“Because of the significant backup,” Kirby said, “we’re switching to nighttime hours starting tomorrow.”
The new hours of operation for the repaving project – which will be shifted to the northbound lanes Wednesday – will go from 7 p.m. to 11 a.m. MST.
“We really regret that delay,” Kirby said.
As for the fires currently ignited in the area of the Gorge, Kirby said they had not impacted repaving efforts.
What follows is ADOT’s traffic advisory through Aug. 14:
Work to repave a 16-mile segment of I-15 will continue through the week of Aug. 13, according to ADOT. The $11.6 million project, which is scheduled for completion in October, includes removal of a layer of the existing pavement and repaving the roadway from the Virgin River Gorge to the Utah state line.
The work schedule is being changed to nighttime hours and crews will be paving between the hours of 7 p.m. and 11 a.m. MST, seven days per week. On Tuesday, Aug. 14, the right lane of southbound I-15 through the Virgin River Gorge will be closed overnight. Beginning Wednesday, crews will shift to northbound I-15, requiring closure of the right lane during work hours.
The speed limit through the work zone will be reduced to 45 mph.
The work zone will be clearly marked by temporary barricades and signage. ADOT advises drivers to allow additional time to reach their destinations and to proceed through the work zone with caution, comply with the reduced speed limit, and be alert for construction equipment and personnel.
ADOT works to inform the public about planned highway restrictions, but there is a possibility that unscheduled closures or restrictions may occur. Weather can also affect a project schedule. To stay up-to-date with the latest highway conditions around the state, visit the ADOT Traveler Information Center at www.az511.gov or call 511.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.