Bluff Street reconstruction project finishes ahead of schedule and under budget

ST. GEORGE — The nearly yearlong reconstruction of the northern end of the Bluff Street corridor officially came to an end Wednesday afternoon with a ribbon-cutting at the Sandtown Park.

Utah Transportation Commission chairman Naghi Zeenati (center) and St. George Mayor Jon Pike (red shirt) hold the scissors about to cut the ribbon marking an official end to the roadwork on Bluff Street, St. George, Utah, Dec. 19, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler. St. George News

State and local road planners, along with civic officials and others, gathered at the park to celebrate the end of a project that, according to the Utah Department of Transportation, finished ahead of schedule and under budget.

“We have an early Christmas gift,” Naghi Zeenati, chairman of the Utah Transportation Commission, said.

The project was originally estimated to cost $42 million and be completed by February 2019. It started in January and was largely finished by the end of November and has cost $32 million as of Nov. 30, Zeenati said.

And just what did St. George get for a nearly a year’s worth of construction on one of its busiest roadways?

Read more: So what is this Bluff Street project all about?

On the surface, an additional lane in each direction and the inclusion of wider shoulders between 100 South and Sunset Boulevard that will provide more capacity and mobility. A tunnel was built beneath Bluff Street that provides safer connectivity between Bluff Street and Sunset Boulevard for pedestrians and cyclists.

“It will be a benefit for locals and visitors alike who try to cross at Sunset,” said Danielle Larkin, of the Southern Utah Bicycle Alliance. She and others praised UDOT road planners for collaborating with the alliance, local officials and the community.

Bluff Street as seen from the Sandtown Park, free of the traffic cones that filled the road during the nearly yearlong reconstruction project that added additional lanes to the north and southbound lanes of Bluff Street from 100 South through Sunset Boulevard, St. George, Utah, Dec. 19, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler. St. George News

They listened to feedback and rolled it into their designs, Larkin said.

Below the surface, several significant utility upgrades will provide decades of service to St. George, including a new storm drain system on this segment of Bluff Street aligned for future storm drain expansion.

“I know everyone is grateful to see (Bluff Street) opened up,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said. “It’s really going to make a huge difference.”

Upgrading Bluff Street had been on UDOT’s to-do list for years. The department oversaw the project because the road is a part of state Route 18.

UDOT worked with local officials and members of the community to determine which road configurations would work best for the area, particularly at the Bluff Street-Sunset Boulevard intersection.

One proposal, a jug-handle configuration that would have claimed a portion of the Red Hills golf course, was scrapped in 2014 in favor of another design that would also ultimately be replaced and refined later on.

“Collaboration was very important on this job,” Rick Torgerson, director of UDOT’s Region 4, said at the ribbon-cutting.

A part of the Bluff Street project involved buying up properties along the roadway that needed to be removed to widen the road. This resulted in the demolition of buildings and relocation of several businesses.

As for the businesses that remained, many struggled with lost business, despite signs lining Bluff Street that they were open for business.

Read more: Businesses still struggling during Bluff Street project, hope customers will brave the construction

Top: The former configuration of the Bluff Street-Sunset Boulevard intersection. Bottom: The new intersection configuration designed to help traffic flow access Sunset Boulevard much more easily as without as much traffic backup. | Image courtesy of the Utah Department of Transportation, St. George News | Click image to enlarge

Northern Bluff Street, specifically between Sunset and St. George boulevards, is considered a part of an overall east-west corridor that starts at the Interstate 15-St. George Boulevard interchange and runs west to Sunset Boulevard and SR-18. Those roads connect the western and northern parts of the county to St. George and I-15.

“This is one of the busiest (traffic) corridors,” Torgerson said, and it will only get busier with growth.

Road planners said Bluff Street needed to be upgraded to handle increased traffic due to rising population projections over the next 20-40 years.

Bluff Street currently carries over 44,000 vehicles every day, with that number expected to climb to 65,000 by 2040 as the population climbs from over 150,000 to around 321,000.

While the Bluff Street project has concluded, Pike said the southern end of Bluff Street toward I-15 could be reconstructed in a similar manner in the next five or 10 years.

The city is also involved in a study to determine whether a future highway interchange in the area of 700 South is feasible, he said.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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14 Comments

  • hiker75 December 20, 2018 at 6:49 am

    Let’s hope the road holds up better than the runway did.

  • JOSH DALTON December 20, 2018 at 8:35 am

    ok. you guys built it. Now lets raise the speed limit to 45 mph. The current speed limit at 35 mph is way to slow for 3 lanes. It does not help that Utonians still can’t drive, nor do “you people” drive with any purpose. GO FALCONS!

    • KR567 December 20, 2018 at 9:06 am

      I take it you’re so much better than “them” eh ?

    • Carpe Diem December 20, 2018 at 10:49 am

      Oh, like Dixie Drive, where the speed limit is 40, but everyone goes 55? MmmKay then.

    • Comment December 20, 2018 at 1:36 pm

      JOSH DALTON, if you’re not joking, shame on you. really…

    • tazzman December 20, 2018 at 2:42 pm

      Josh, you say that Utah drivers can’t drive and do so without any purpose, yet your solution is to increase the speed limit. Yeah, let’s have those non-driving, purposeless people driving FASTER.

      Ehmm…

  • Carpe Diem December 20, 2018 at 10:48 am

    Drove straight in front of Mori Kessler as he was recording… Guess we ended up on the cutting room floor!

    Hi Naghi! Long time no see!

    • Carpe Diem December 20, 2018 at 11:52 am

      Oh I take that back… We went by about 0:43 or so… Thanks Mori! Forgot to honk :/ went by too fast! ~zoom~
      Was checking out the milk and hay spill spot yesterday too, it was cleaned up quite well. No Wells Fargo truck crash yet, either :/ Give it time!

  • Comment December 20, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    Can’t help but notice how the lanes kind of wander around, and not a nice even curve, but a sort of half-assed meandering. It’s like it was done by a bunch of clowns. It’s enough that I find it amusingly irritating. Maybe this is where the “under budget” part played in.

    • tazzman December 20, 2018 at 4:34 pm

      Comment, the lanes do that all over STG. That and the grades are off. Sometimes I think there isn’t a need to legalize weed.

  • Shorm December 20, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    As someone who drives Sunset Blvd to Bluff on a daily basis, I appreciate these changes.

  • LunchboxHero December 21, 2018 at 9:16 am

    Nice job! Thanks to the construction team. The road looks nice.

  • Mike P December 21, 2018 at 9:26 am

    I think everyone involved in this construction project should be commended. In the state I’m from, ANY public project completed ahead of schedule OR under budget is unheard of. To achieve both? would be considered Impossible.

  • lynnhowlyn December 21, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Agreed. Completion of the project was smooth, timely and the disruption of traffic flow during the project was generally well handled.

    That said, I hope that with it’s completion, SOMEONE will look at the timing of signals at the Bluff/Highway 18 and Sunset Blvd intersection.

    It “seems” like those of us traveling south from the north … down Highway 18 toward St George … wait an inordinate length of time for ‘our’ light to turn green — even after the flow of traffic from Bluff to Sunset and vice-versa has all passed.

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