ST. GEORGE — University students and area residents have a new way to connect between the east and west sides of St. George with the completion of a pedestrian underpass at 400 South.
People gathered Tuesday afternoon for a ribbon-cutting commemorating the opening of the new 200-foot-long tunnel that runs under Interstate 15.
“We’re thrilled about the completion of this project,” Dixie State University President Richard “Biff” Williams said as he addressed the crowd gathered inside the tunnel.
The $2.8 million project is touted as being a great benefit to Dixie State students who now have easier access to the east side of St. George adjacent to additional housing, retail centers, Dixie Regional Medical Center and the Russell C. Taylor Health Science Building.
“This tunnel is really unique because it creates multiple avenues to connect Dixie State University with its students,” said Taylor Godfrey, Dixie State student body president.
The new tunnel, dubbed the “Trailblazer Tunnel” by Williams, is also an important piece of infrastructure for the university’s future plans.
Prior to the tunnel’s construction, the closest access points to the east side of St. George from Dixie State were on 100 South and 700 South.
Benefiting both students and city residents alike, the tunnel is part of the city’s active transportation plans, Godfrey said.
Kye Nordfelt, health promotions director for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department and a member of the city’s Active Transportation Committee, said the tunnel will help provide more direct access to downtown St. George as he rides his bike to work and elsewhere.
“This tunnel … makes a big difference in connecting me as a daily commuter, as well as others who are here that commute and ride on a daily basis. So it’s a big deal,” Nortdfelt said.
The new tunnel will accommodate walkers, joggers, cyclists and scooter users, St. George Mayor Jon Pike said.
Williams said the concept of the Trailblazer Tunnel was one of the first items he wanted for Dixie State students when he became the university president in 2014. Now, five years later and thanks to a cooperative effort between the university, the city of St. George and other entities, it has come to pass.
“It’s great to have the partnerships we have – all groups combined to make this tunnel possible,” Pike said. “It benefits everyone. It benefits the students at Dixie State to connect one side of their campus to the other, to housing, to retail, to shopping and, of course, to the hospital.”
Of the project’s $2.8 million price tag, the Utah Department of Transportation covered $1.4 million, Dixie State and the city of St. George each contributed $600,000 and the Dixie Metropolitan Panning Organization put in $200,000.
“Partnerships are the name of the game,” Pike said. “It’s how we get things done.”
The underpass also proved to be a more viable and less expensive alternative to other options the city considered, such as an overpass of some sort.
“In this case it was best to have this be a pedestrian, bike and scooter kind of crossing,” Pike said. “This was a really good alternative.”
Mindful that the tunnel stretches on for 200 feet, Pike said lights have been installed to keep the tunnel illuminated. Security cameras providing 24/7 surveillance have also been installed, as has an emergency phone in the middle of the tunnel.
“It will be a place we’ll monitor closely and will be safe,” he said.
Construction began in March and completed in early August prior to the beginning of fall classes at Dixie State University, which boasts over 11,000 students this year.
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