Traffic advisory: Southbound backup through gorge, alternate route suggested

Traffic backed up on Interstate 15 in the Virgin River Gorge, Arizona, March 12, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

VIRGIN RIVER GORGE, Ariz. – With traffic backing up on southbound Interstate 15 through the Virgin River Gorge Saturday, authorities are recommending motorist take an alternate route.

“There is a two-mile southbound backup in the gorge this afternoon,” Sgt. John Bottoms, of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, said shortly before 6 p.m. “We have officers and (Arizona Department of Transportation) personnel responding to work the backup.”

Motorists are advised to take Old Highway 91 if they wish to avoid delays in the gorge.

Highway 91 between St. George, Utah, and Littlefield, Arizona | Image from Mapquest.com, St. George News
Highway 91 between St. George, Utah, and Littlefield, Arizona | Image from Mapquest.com, St. George News

Alternate route

Those seeking to avoid the traffic backup in the Virgin River Gorge may take Highway 91 as an alternate route. The highway bypasses the Gorge entirely, intersecting with I-15 at Exit 8 in Littlefield, Arizona, to the south and connecting to St. George at the north via Santa Clara and Sunset Boulevard. See map included in this article.

ADOT Bridge rehabilitation project

Bridges in the Virgin River Gorge were originally constructed in the 1970s. When this section of highway was built, it was the most expensive rural interstate highway per mile, and was completed in 1973 after a decade of construction.

ADOT began work in January 2014 to modernize and rehabilitate bridges through the gorge. Work on three of the bridges has been completed, specifically surfaces for Virgin River Bridge No. 2 at milepost 13, Bridge No. 3 at milepost 15 and Bridge No. 7 at milepost 22.

Work began on Bridge No. 6 in the spring of 2014 and is anticipated to be completed in the spring of 2016. Bridge No. 6 involves a $27 million rehabilitation replacing the bridge’s superstructure — girders, deck and railings — as well as widening the roadway through the narrow passage of the gorge.

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