ST. GEORGE – The landscape along a stretch of Bluff Street just north of St. George Boulevard changed recently in preparation for an upcoming road project.
Buildings that once housed Crazy Bob’s and Jazzy Java and others have been torn down and the ground smoothed over ahead of the planned widening of northern Bluff Street. The widening and related infrastructure improvements are slated to improve traffic flow for years to come once completed.
So now that a handful of buildings have been torn down, many people are asking, “What’s next?”
The project is now entering its bid phase, said Kevin Kitchen, of the Utah Department of Transportation. It is anticipated that a bid will be awarded during the fall, with additional preparation for construction also taking place.
Road work is expected to begin in early 2018 and take approximately 12 months overall.
Why do road planners say the project is needed?
City and state road planners have been saying improvements to northern Bluff Street are necessary for several years. In February 2012, following the completion of an environmental assessment, UDOT held a public meeting displaying future planning possibilities for roadway.
A large reason planners say the project is needed is to help deal with current and future congestion as the region continues to grow. Growth is also considered a prime reason for other recent projects, such as the proposed Exit 11 project in Washington City.
“UDOT looks at how to deal with traffic volumes over the next 20 to 40 years,” Kitchen said.
Currently Washington County sports an estimated population of over 150,000 and is projected to more than double by 2040 at around 321,000, according to the a report from University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Institute.
With that population growth comes a lot of cars and the need to plan for them, Kitchen said.
A large volume of traffic currently on northern Bluff Street flows between Sunset Boulevard and St. George Boulevard as motorists move between St. George’s western and eastern halves. While Bluff Street itself is a north-south road, Kitchen said it is also one of the city’s primary east-west corridors.
“Bluff bears a lot of the weight of the local (traffic) network,” Kitchen said. “There really is a dominant traffic pattern between St. George Boulevard and Sunset.”
UDOT is overseeing the project due to Bluff Street actually being a state road – part of state Route 18.
Widening and improvements
Bluff Street will be widened to three lanes north of 100 South and up through the intersection with Sunset Boulevard, at which point it will narrow to two lanes once more.
On either side of the widening roadway will be added space for bicyclists.
It is the widening and related right-of-way acquisitions along Bluff Street that resulted in the a handful of buildings being bought by UDOT and ultimately torn down. While making way for the road-widening, it also led to over 20 businesses along Bluff Street having to relocate.
In addition to the widening, the Bluff Street-Sunset Boulevard intersection will be redesigned. Currently traffic is directed north on Bluff Street with multiple vehicles stopping in three lanes that wait to turn left. The new design will allow the traffic to make a smoother transition onto Sunset Boulevard.
Part of the new intersection will include an underpass for pedestrians so they can cross from the east side of Bluff Street over to the Sunset Corner shopping area.
See video in media player above for more specifics on the project
The overall cost of the Bluff Street project has been estimated at around $51 million.
Other area road projects
Other area UDOT projects of note include the addition of auxiliary lanes to Interstate 15 between mile markers 4 and 5. The addition of the new lanes is anticipated to improve traffic flow and safety between the Brigham Road/Exit 4 and Dixie Drive/Exit 5 interchanges.
Work on this project is slated to concluded by the end of the year.
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