ST. GEORGE – Work on widening Interstate 15 between Exits 8 and 10 and the accompanying Mall Drive Underpass began Tuesday and will continue around the clock until completed later this year.
Heavy equipment and work crews appeared in the median between north and southbound I-15 near the area of the Red Cliffs Mall Tuesday and will be a constant presence into December.
They will be widening the 2-mile stretch of interstate from two lanes to three lanes and attempting to do it with as little impact on daytime travel as possible.
“One of our goals is to keep traffic moving as it is critical to commuters running back and forth – and also freight,” said Kevin Kitchen, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation.
Work is also being done to keep the impact to traffic on Red Hills Parkway and Red Cliffs Drive to a minimum.
Between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., all lanes will be open to traffic. However, traffic on I-15 through the construction zone will be reduced to a single lane of travel in both directions between 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Construction for the underpass requires crews to reduce access on Red Cliffs Drive in the area of North 1680 East and Mall Drive to three lanes during the nighttime hours. During this time, one of the lanes will act as a turning lane.
Road officials are hoping to leave travel on Red Hills Parkway unchanged during construction.
Work on widening I-15 will also be done inward instead of outward where possible, Kitchen said. This means the new lanes will be built where the median currently exists.
With work going around the clock, Kitchen said, it is anticipated that new lanes and the underpass will be completed by Thanksgiving.
The area between Exits 8 and 10, also known as the Green Springs (Drive) and St. George Boulevard interchanges, respectively, was identified as a “choke point” on I-15 by an environmental assessment study. The study identified improvements needed on the I-15 corridor between the Arizona border and Utah mile 16.
“We looked at the corridor and realized that eventually we’d need those additional lanes all the way through Washington County,” Kitchen said.
It is anticipated by both state and local road officials that the additional lanes and underpass will help take pressure off of the Exit 10/Green Springs interchange.
The Green Springs interchange is notorious in the region for traffic congestion and has been called “broken” by Washington City officials in recent years. Some pressure on the intersection has been taken off with the opening of the Mall Drive Bridge in September 2014.
As for the new underpass, it is meant to improve local access between Red Cliffs Drive and Red Hills Parkway without having to use Green Springs Drive or St. George Boulevard interchanges. New traffic signals on both roads will also be installed at the underpass location as a part of the project.
UDOT and the City of St. George stated in a news release they would like to remind the public to be aware of 24/7 work crews, lane shifts, other drivers and pedestrians while traveling through all construction zones.
“Zero Fatalities and zero injuries is a goal we can all live with,” UDOT officials said in the release about the project.
The overall project is estimated to cost $27 million. UDOT carries the bulk of that at $21 million. The additional $6 million is evenly split between the City of St. George and funds received from the State Infrastructure Bank, Kitchen said.
The next project UDOT is looking at, which could begin next year, Kitchen said, is widening I-15 between Exits 4 and 5.
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