HURRICANE — The completion of the fifth and final segment of the Southern Parkway – and thus the completion of the entire roadway from Interstate 15 to state Route 9 – was celebrated with a ribbon cutting event Wednesday morning.
Local officials, road planners, cyclists and others met on the overpass marking the intersection of Sand Hollow Road and the Southern Parkway, which is officially designated as state Route 7, to commemorate the end of a process that began in 2004 and has cost an estimated $250 million to build.
“Today’s a great day,” Hurricane Mayor John Bramall said at the event, noting that the road leads right to Sand Hollow Reservoir and Quail Creek, both of which are recreational hot spots in the county. It also provides a more direct route to Zion National Park.
For people traveling north from Nevada with an intent to visit Sand Hollow, Quail Creek or Zion, the Southern Parkway will allow them to bypass the traffic through St. George and Washington City, while also avoiding a handful of traffic lights on SR-9.
The Southern Parkway will also offer an alternative route for travelers in case an incident causes I-15 to be shut down anywhere between Exits 2 and 16 for an extended period.
Construction of segment five of the Southern Parkway began in March 2020 and runs 8 miles from the intersection with Sand Hollow Road to SR-9 in the area of 2700 West. The final segment of the roadway is estimated to have cost $75 million to construct.
From its beginning at I-15 Exit 2 to its terminus at SR-9, the Southern Parkway covers a length of 26 miles. The parkway runs through parts of St. George and Washington City and ends in Hurricane with various interchanges along the way providing access to and from these communities. However, some connections, like the one to 3650 South in Washington City, have yet to be built.
“The main purpose from the very, very start has been to have a regional corridor,” Rick Torgerson, director of the Utah Department of Transportation’s Region 4, said Wednesday. “It is meant to provide a regional system that connects all these cities and towns together. … This corridor has been a key part of our overall planning for our transportation network in Southern Utah.”
The initial idea for the Southern Parkway was conceived in the mid-1990s. In 2004 an environmental impact statement was completed, clearing the way for construction that began in 2007.
At the time, crews were working hard to complete the initial segments of the road in order to connect to the St. George Regional Airport, which was set to open in 2010.
“Ever since then, we had the goal of connecting to SR-9,” Torgerson said.
As the individual segments were completed and UDOT waited on additional funding to build the next ones, travelers using the finished portions of the Southern Parkway would end up having to detour into parts of Washington City and eventually Sand Hollow Road until the Southern Parkway was finished.
“This is going to help de-clutter SR-9,” Bramall said.
Zion National Park continues to see 4 to 5 million visitors annually, while Sand Hollow State Park saw a record 1.3 million visitors last year.
“You’re going have all kinds of opportunities for tourism,’ said Naghi Zeenati, chair of UDOT’s transportation commission. “It won’t be just from other states but counties as well.”
While the ribbon cutting event took place Wednesday, the last segment of the Southern Parkway will officially open for traffic use on Thursday.
However, the roadway already saw temporary use during the recent Ironman 70.3 competition as it was opened to the triathletes for the event. Local cyclists also got to break in the completed roadway with a ride between SR-9 and Sand Hollow Road that morning.
“I’m just thrilled with the beauty of it,” Kevin Lewis, director of the Great Zion tourism office, said of the scenery travelers can view along the roadway. “It really is a critical component for our infrastructure.”
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