ST. GEORGE – Hundreds of people attended this year’s “Dixie Regional Transportation Expo” to get a glimpse of current and new projects throughout the county. Ongoing work on the Interstate 15 corridor was showcased along with county and municipal projects and plans. A continuing focus on active transportation was also on display.
While the expo provided an opportunity for transportation and public works officials to display projects and plans, the public had equal opportunity to give their impressions, suggestions and complaints to planners.
“I’m glad to see it,” St. George resident Mike McFarland said about the expo. Having moved from a place where such information wasn’t readily shared with the public, he appreciated the chance to see what’s ahead.
“It’s an opportunity for residents of the St. George area, Washington County, to get out and find out what the long range planning is,” McFarland said, “how it’s going to affect them, positive and negative.”
Comments and suggestions given at the transportation expo in the past have influenced road projects, said Kevin Kitchen, of the Utah Department of Transportation.
While UDOT may think it has a great plan, a local delivery truck driver may approach them and say certain changes they propose won’t exactly work for the type of vehicle he drives. Such input has helped improve projects overall and made them more accommodating, Kitchen said.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike said, “It really helps us to get input from our citizens who have to drive those roads and use these sidewalks and paths.”
According to the Dixie Metropolitan Planning Organization, projections place the county population at over 177,000 by 2020, and potentially around 335,000 by 2040. In order to provide the needed infrastructure to accommodate the growth, the Dixie MPO created a long-range regional transportation plan that runs through 2040. The plan identifies nearly $2 billion worth of projects that need to be addressed and implemented over the next 24 years.
The Dixie MPO’s 77-page long-range plan can be found here.
Members of the St. George Active Transportation Committee and Southern Utah Bicycle Alliance were on hand to answer questions about active transportation.
“We really believe active transportation is more than buses and cars and planes … but also includes bikes; bikes that ride on the paths, bikes that ride on the trails, bikes that ride on the road,” said Megan Rasmussen, a member of the committee and owner of eSpokes, which specializes in electric bicycles “It’s a great form of transportation.”
The City of St. George is currently undergoing an active transportation study that will help refine its own plan based off of the county’s overall plan. The study began last fall and, along with public comment, will help identify how the city can best identify and integrate active transportation needs within the city.
A draft plan created from the study is anticipated to be completed around April or May, with a finished plan potentially produced and adopted by the city around June.
Mass transit and a proposed St. George-Springdale route
SunTran, St. George’s mass transit system, continues to grow in use. Currently serving half of the city’s approximately 70,000 residents, the bus system provided over 500,000 rides for individuals in 2014, according to the Dixie Metropolitan Planning Organization. A new route between Ivins and St. George opened in early 2015.
The public can take a survey on how to improve SunTran service at BrighterSunTran.com.
The Five County Association of Governments is looking at the possibility of creating a bus route between St. George and Springdale. The route would serve the two locations and others in between with various stops. A feasibility study is currently being conducted into the route’s potential.
Utah Department of Transportation
UDOT’s primary project for 2016 will be the widening of I-15 with an additional lane in both directions between Exits 8 and 10. The project is part of UDOT’s overall plans for the I-15 corridor through Washington County.
Work to be done at the Sunset Boulevard and Bluff Street intersection will include a pedestrian underpass.
UDOT will be tackling two projects related to the Bluff Street Corridor in 2018 as it focuses on upgrading the intersections at St. George Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. Lanes will also be widened along Bluff Street in the area. Instead of going with its usual 12-foot lanes, however, UDOT will be scaling back to 11-foot lanes in an effort to minimize the impact on businesses along the road.
Major projects in St. George this year include the Mall Drive underpass to be built in conjunction with UDOT as it widens the highway. The underpass will connect Red Hills Parkway and Red Hills Drive in the area of Mall Drive. The project is projected to be completed by the end of the year.
River Road from 2450 South to the area of Brigham Road will be widened. It will include replacing the bridge over the Fort Pearce Wash. The project is anticipated to take five months to complete once it begins.
Merrill Road is being upgraded to serve as a connector between Washington Fields Road and Mall Drive in order to provide additional connectivity for the residents in the area.
To help lessen congestion at the I-15 Exit 10 interchange at Green Springs Drive, Washington City, in conjunction with UDOT, is pushing for the creation of an interchange at milepost 11. The new interchange could connect at 300 East or Main Street.
City staff are also tending to issues on a segment of Telegraph Street between Washington Parkway and Highland Parkway. A section of the road on the hill leading to the Highland Parkway intersection has sunk at least 12 inches over the last two years for reasons the city is currently working to identify and ultimately provide a long-term fix for, said Mike Shaw, Washington’s Public Works director.
Ivins and Santa Clara
In a joint project, Santa Clara and Ivins will be upgrading Old Highway 91 between the area of the Jacob Hamblin Home in Santa Clara to 200 East in Ivins. Improvements will widen shoulders to provide more safety for cyclist, as well a sidewalk on one side of the roadway. Work began Monday and is projected to wrap up around July.
Also featured at the transportation expo was the Heads Up, Thumbs Up campaign created by the St. George Police Department. Sgt. Craig Harding and other officers showed the public maps of where vehicle accidents had occurred in the city last year and what type of accidents were the most common. A total of 2,166 accidents occurred in 2015, with leading causes being following too closely behind another vehicle and failing to yield to oncoming traffic.
While texting on a phone isn’t the cause of most accidents, Harding said, general distraction is. This can include anything from changing the station on the car radio to watching something other than the roadway ahead.
“Concentrate on your driving, stop looking around,” Harding said.
Ed. Note: The report that a designated bicycle lane on Old Highway 91 would be a part of the project was in error.
- St. George Active Transportation website
- Dixie MPO Active Transportation Plan
- Dixie MPO Long-range 2015-2040 plan
- Brighter SunTran website
- Heads Up Thumbs Up website
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