ST GEORGE — Community members and cyclists gathered together Wednesday for an inaugural bike ride to christen the trails and culvert connections at the new Red Hills Parkway Interchange in St. George.
The group gathered in the LDS chapel parking lot at 1250 N. Bluff St., where a variety of bikes had been provided by Red Rock Bicycle Co. and Bicycles Unlimited for those who did not want to walk the trail segment.
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Videocast by Devan Chavez, St. George News
The Utah Department of Transportation no longer does ribbon-cutting ceremonies, Marc Mortensen, assistant to the St. George city manager, said. Since anticipation for the project has been high, he said he felt an opening event was warranted, and he coordinated with the Southern Utah Bicycle Association to make the ride happen.
“We’re spending an extra $1.2 million dollars on facilities that accommodate pedestrians and cyclists,” Mortensen said. “So I said, ‘Hey, why don’t we at least pull … the cycling community and give them a sneak peek and explain to them how it’s going to work.’”
The christening ride began at the church, and riders headed along the newly constructed northbound state Route 18 ramp. Once at the top, Nathan Merrill, a traffic engineer for UDOT, who rode his bicycle with the group, gave a brief overview about what people could expect with the new connections.
Four different tunnels will be available to cyclists and pedestrians traveling north or south on SR-18 to either turn up Red Hills Parkway or down Snow Canyon Parkway, Merrill said. These tunnels will safely take the cyclists away from motor vehicles at the intersection.
Cyclists or motorists wishing to continue on SR-18 or Bluff Street can use the new overhead ramp structures to avoid the lower intersection if they wish, as well, Merrill said.
“This is a pretty popular route for cyclists, both in recreation and training for local events,” he said.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike joined the cyclists on their ride and also took some time to thank UDOT and the Southern Utah Bicycle Association for their collaborative efforts on both the event and the trail connections.
With the number of cyclists continuing to increase in the area, Merrill said, the finished product will offer a safer option for those in the area who like to travel by means other than cars.
“I think we have a great end result,” Pike said. “I think it will be more safe for cyclists as well as pedestrians — and, of course, motorists — who are using this.”
Approximately 35 people attended the christening ride, which was a welcome surprise because only about 20 were expected, Mortensen said.
Two weeks ago, Pike appointed 13 people as members of a new St. George Active Transportation Committee, Mortensen said. At the committee’s first meeting on Dec. 11, issues facing the cycling and pedestrian community will be discussed.
“This represents the first of many changes that people will be expecting to see over the next several years to makes us more of a cycling destination,” Mortensen said.
The interchange will be open for motor traffic by Thursday morning, Merrill said. The pedestrian and bicycle trail connections are expected to open up within in the following two to three days. The landscaping and other finishing touches will continue to be worked on but will not impact the flow of traffic.
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