ST. GEORGE — Cooperation and partnerships are important on any big project, an Arizona Department of Transportation blog post says, but maybe even more so on one like the Interstate 15 Virgin River Bridge No. 6 rehabilitation project.
The $27 million improvement project includes the replacement of the bridge’s superstructure — the girders, deck and railings — as well as widening the roadway through the narrow passage of the Virgin River Gorge.
A major reconstruction project like this makes it tough on travelers and transportation officials alike. Travel is restricted to one lane in the construction zone and accidents or heavy traffic can cause hours of delay as motorists endure backups and slowdowns that can stretch for miles.
However, cooperation between emergency responders, local governments and contractors is making the project less painful for everyone.
I-15 is the only interstate in the United States that connects Canada to Mexico (I-15 terminates at its interchange with Interstate 5, 12 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border), Arizona Department of Public Safety’s highway patrol Sgt. John Bottoms said. Therefore it experiences a high volume of commercial vehicle traffic.
The Interstate running through the Virgin River Gorge is essentially a remote location with limited alternate routes and that adds to the reason collaboration is crucial for all drivers’ safety.
“ADOT tries to meet with local government and emergency responders on every project and talk about emergency access plans,” ADOT engineer Adam Carreon said. “Everybody knows what’s happening, everybody knows what our options are. We plan for any event and when something happens we all know what we’re doing.”
That planning paid off in November 2015 when the driver of a UPS truck pulling a set of triple trailers through the Gorge lost control of the third trailer – it tipped and fell against the median wall. After the driver pulled over, two of the trailers were still blocking the highway.
“The trailer started to fishtail and it caught the median wall,” Bottoms said, “and when it started to topple it removed about 300 feet of glare screen that sits on top of the barrier median wall, and the trailer tipped over.”
Coordination between Arizona DPS, ADOT and the contractor got traffic moving quickly and ultimately saved drivers from delays of about three hours, the blog states.
The driver pulled off the road as far as he could, but one trailer remained in the southbound lane of travel; the glare screen torn off during the accident blocked the northbound lane as well.
In this particular incident, there was an ADOT employee driving behind the UPS truck, Bottoms said, and he was able to quickly notify troopers who were working in the construction zone. Contractors on the project were notified and asked to bring in a front-end loader to move the trailer out of the way and raise it upright, which they were able to do within 30 minutes, before the tow truck even arrived.
“For people traveling through here, it meant saving them two to three hours of congested traffic and delays in their travel,” Bottoms said.
With limited alternate routes, ADOT urges drivers to plan ahead, allow extra travel time, slow down and drive carefully through the work zone, and be alert for construction equipment and personnel.
The project is scheduled for completion in 2016.
- ADOT blog site
- For the latest highway conditions in Arizona, visit the ADOT Traveler Information Center at az511.gov, follow ADOT on Twitter or call 511; outside of Arizona, dial 888-411-ROAD (7623).
- Virgin River Bridge Project information
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