ST. GEORGE – Construction on the much-anticipated Mall Drive Bridge ended Monday, and the bridge officially opened for travel Tuesday morning following a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“What an exciting thing to see this bridge in place,” former St. George Public Works Director Larry Bulloch said. “We received phone calls after phone calls for many years saying, ‘Hey, I’m 100 yards from where I want to go and I have to drive 5 miles to get there. Can you please help us?’”
We had it on our radar for 20 years and worked at it, planned for it, hoped for it.
The project was designed and built as a means to relieve traffic congestion on both River Road in St. George and Washington Fields Drive in Washington City by comprising a road system that connects Mall Drive on the north to 3000 East on the south.
The bridge is expected to reduce drive time, fuel consumption and emissions for both Washington City and St. George residents.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike said:
We have the added value of pedestrian and bicycling features, if you notice how wide those sections are. The bridge I cross most days in Bloomington is about half that wide for bikes and pedestrian and so we’re grateful here that we had the chance to build it nice and wide, and we have the room for a couple more lanes as the traffic needs grow and as the roads widen on either side of the bridge.
Envisioned in the city’s 2006 master transportation and traffic plan, the Mall Drive project has seen significant planning changes over the years to bring it to the point of completion.
“If you want to say that we haven’t had any hurdles on this thing, I’ll tell you, you’re dead wrong,” St. George Director of Public Works Cameron Cutler said.
Potential delays threatened the Mall Drive Bridge project in late 2013 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a backlog of permit applications during the federal government shutdown. Ultimately, the St. George City Council accepted a favorable bid from Wadsworth Brothers Construction that was about to expire and, in doing so, risked the possibility of not obtaining clearance from Fish and Wildlife in time to begin construction in early 2014.
The contractor bid from Wadsworth Brothers Construction was unanimously accepted by the St. George City Council on Dec. 19, 2013. That bid was for $7.5 million, Bulloch said.
Pike said he was especially grateful for the help from federal elected officials in seeing this project through. He said:
I want to recognize Congressman Chris Stewart and also Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch for their help. They really helped us a lot, especially in securing the final permits that we needed to get started. We were really under some time constraints and they came through for us and we appreciate that … We really needed a little bit of extra help this time around and we got it from our federal elected officials.
Construction of the bridge began in February and was scheduled for completion the second week of September but was pushed back a week after a few delays. One of those delays included the construction site being robbed three times during the project.
It’s interesting that, originally, we thought this would be about a $15 million project, and timing is everything – it doesn’t always work this way – but it’s about an $8.5 million dollar project, so that’s nice. That, again, goes to excellent design and value engineering and making sure that we could still get what we needed but do it in the most cost-effective way.
There was a large turnout at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, with some of those in attendance including: representatives for U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, as well as U.S. Congressman Chris Stewart; Utah State Sen. Steve Urquhart and Reps. Lowry Snow, Brad Last, Don Ipson and John Stanard; Washington County Commissioner Alan Gardner and County Administrator Dean Cox; St. George City Mayor Jon Pike, City Manager Gary Esplin, City Attorney Sean Guzman, and St. George City Council members; Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson and council members; UDOT Southern Utah Project Manager Dana Meier, UDOT Commissioner Naghi Zeenati, former UDOT Commissioner Jerry Lewis; Dixie Metropolitan Planning Organization Director Myron Lee; and Washington County Site Select Plus Executive Director Scott Hirschi.
Ipson provided cars for many of the dignitaries to enjoy a ride and be among the first to cross the new bridge.
Pike said he particularly appreciated the cooperation from Washington City officials, along with their assistance.
“(St. George City) built this – sometimes that’s just how it works best – we built the bridge and both of our residents will use the bridge, but Mayor Neilson, he gave me a personal check for a million dollars and 1 cent. I noticed that he signed it with an ‘X,’ but anyway, we do appreciate you Kenny, Mayor Neilson.”
Pike and Neilson crossed the bridge together, taking the lead in a shiny red convertible.
Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.
- Mall Drive Bridge work encounters delays; new targeted opening date
- UPDATE: Mall Drive Bridge construction on schedule; Photo Gallery
- Mall Drive Bridge construction finally begins, what to expect
- Mall Drive bridge project strapped by red tape, City Council considers options
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