ST. GEORGE – Construction will begin in January on a project designed to make old Highway 91 on the western border of Washington County safer for motorists.
The $1.03 million project will include improvements such as widening the road shoulders, replacing signs and extending more than 100 water culverts that pass underneath the highway.
“This road is narrow,” Todd Edwards, engineer for Washington County, told the county commission Tuesday.
“We’re moving a lot of dirt to fill in areas where there’s steep drop-offs and to take down some of the cliffs that are right next to the road,” Edwards said.
The project area starts at the intersection of SR-91 and Gunlock Road and extends 16.5 miles to the Arizona border.
Water culvert extension will improve drainage and make it safer for drivers if they go off the road.
Construction is expected to begin in January and continue through July 2017. Another project is in the works that will focus on installing guard rails.
As part of the road improvement project, an agreement with the Shivwits Band of Paiutes will allow crews temporary access to 8.6 miles of Shivwits land during construction.
The existing right-of-way for the highway through the Shivwits Reservation is 100 feet; the agreement allows for a 200-foot temporary maintenance access during construction.
The county will pay to install fencing and gates and will also restore any disturbed areas to their original condition.
According to the Washington County Historical Society, SR-91 was formerly the Arrowhead Trail, the first all-weather road connecting Los Angeles, California, to Salt Lake City, Utah.
The road became known as U.S. Highway 91 in 1926 when the federal highway numbering system was initiated.
The highway was the principal north-south route through Washington County until Interstate 15 was built and the Virgin River Gorge section was opened in 1973.
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