Traffic update: truck driver runs out of fuel in Virgin River Gorge, causes massive backup

Stock image| St. George News

UPDATE: As of 3:55 p.m. Sgt. Bottoms reported that the northbound backup has cleared out. Traffic has returned to normal

VIRGIN RIVER GORGE, Ariz. — A semitractor-trailer driver ran out of fuel in the northbound lanes of Interstate 15 in the Virgin River Gorge Saturday. Compounding matters, the driver ran out of fuel in the construction zone on the bridge, bringing northbound traffic to a complete halt for approximately 45 minutes.

With no way to get the truck started or remove it — with the engine stalled, there was no air pressure available to release its brakes — troopers were forced to siphon fuel from a nearby motor home to prime the semitractor’s engine, Arizona Department of Public Safety Sergeant John Bottoms said. During this time, the northbound backup reached over seven miles.

A heavy duty tow truck was called to remove the vehicle, but the driver of the motor home volunteered his own fuel to enable troopers to clear the road while the wrecker was still en route.

The driver of the semi-tractor was cited for operating an unsafe vehicle.

As of 2:38 p.m. MST, the northbound backup was approximately 4 miles.

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

Alternate Route

Travelers looking to avoid delays in the Virgin River Gorge should consider using U.S. Highway 91 as an alternate route, which may reduce travel time and ease congestion on I-15.

Highway 91 detours around the Virgin River Gorge and can be accessed at the southern end via I-15 at Exit 8 in Littlefield, Arizona. The northern end routes into 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 built per mile. It was completed in 1973 after a decade of construction.

Work began on Bridge No. 6 in the spring of 2014 and involves a $27 million rehabilitation project 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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