ST. GEORGE — A new round of bridge work on the Arizona stretch of Interstate 15 near the Littlefield-Beaver Dam area is set to state next week.
Work on Virgin River Bridge No. 1 is slated to begin Monday, according to a Wednesday press release from the Arizona Department of Transportation. Initial work will begin below the bridge, though motorists can expect eventual shifts in traffic as the project continues.
One lane of traffic in each direction will be maintained throughout the project, according to ADOT.
The $56 million project will replace the abutment foundations, piers and the bridge deck of Bridge No. 1. New pavement, pavement markings, guardrail and signage are also included in the project.
“We continue to make progress rehabilitating the I-15 bridges through the Virgin River Gorge,” Audra Merrick, district engineer for ADOT’s Northcentral District, said in a statement. “This latest project will extend the life of the bridge and help commerce to continue flowing through this region.”
Work on the bridges overall has been part of a major upgrade program on the highway bridges on I-15 stretching back to 2014. The bridges were originally constructed in the 1970s. When this section of highway was built, it was the most expensive rural interstate highway built per mile. It was completed in 1973 after a decade of construction.
The interstate bridge hadn’t seen much heavy-duty maintenance or upgrade work since they were originally constructed, which prompted the eventual need to rebuild, reinforce and upgrade them to deal with the volume of traffic that has increased over the years.
This work has included minor repairs and resurfacing of bridge decks on Bridge No. 2, Bridge No. 3 and Bridge No. 7, as well as an extensive rehabilitation of Bridge No. 6 that was completed in 2016.
Last summer, ADOT completed repairs and deck rehabilitation to Bridge No. 2, Bridge No. 4 and Bridge No. 5.
As a part of the preparation for work to begin underneath Bridge No. 1, a popular man-made oasis called “Little Jamaica, which was under the bridge, was dismantled and fenced off beginning in 2018 by ADOT.
Little Jamaica was a popular spot for a day trip, where visitors were able to sit in the pool while the diverted spring created a waterfall that cascaded down the rock face and into the pool before spilling down into the Virgin River just below. The pool itself was created by several sandbags that had been cemented together.
Unfortunately, the attraction also sat on ADOT property.
“In the interest of public health and safety and to address the maintenance burden and increased liability it creates for ADOT, we are removing the manmade pool nicknamed ‘Little Jamaica’ within the I-15 right of way,” Ryan Harding, an ADOT representative, said in an email to St. George News in November 2018.
Work on Bridge No. 1 through the Littlefield-Beaver Dam area is expected to conclude by fall 2023.
As Bridge No 1. lies north of the interchange between Highway 91 (Old Highway 91 in Utah) and I-15, motorists wishing to avoid the bridge work may want to consider using Highway 91 as an alternative route.
The highway bypasses Bridge No. 1 and the Virgin River Gorge entirely, intersecting with I-15 at Exit 8 in Littlefield in the south and connecting to St. George to the north via Santa Clara and Sunset Boulevard.
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