‘People want to know what’s going on’: St. George transportation projects aplenty at annual expo

ST. GEORGE — New and ongoing road and related projects spread across Washington County were showcased during the annual Dixie Regional Transportation Expo held Tuesday at the Dixie Convention Center.

People gather at the 2024 Dixie Regional Transportation Expo held at the Dixie Convention Center to learn about ongoing and future transportation projects in Washington County, St. George, Utah, Feb. 13, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Many of this year’s projects of note are ongoing from the previous year with some expected to conclude soon or at least wrap up a particular phase before moving on to the next one. Whether a project was old or new, people came out to see what the future held for transportation in the county and see what progress has been made since the last expo.

“I think it’s great,” Cameron Cutler, the public works director for the city of St. George, said, adding he’s seen a steady increase in expo attendance since the 2010s. “People want to know what’s going on.”

Many attendees have been repeat visitors, said Myron Lee, the transportation manager for the Five County Association of Governments.

“There are a lot of repeat visitors here that are seeing the progress that we’ve made in the past and they’re excited to see what’s happening,” Lee said.

This is the first of two articles covering highlights from the 2024 Dixie Transportation Expo. This article covers St. George’s various transportation projects and related items. The second will feature highlights from the Utah Department of Transportation, Washington County and other municipalities and groups that participated in the expo.

George Washington Boulevard bridge, 3000 East and more traffic signals

Stock image | St. George News

Work on the fourth phase of 3000 East has ended. The road has expanded to five lanes, with a pedestrian and bike lane built alongside it.

The final two phases of the project are being combined and will cover 3000 East between 200 South and Seegmiller Drive. Work on this segment of the roadway is projected to start in April with the hope it will wrap up before school starts in August.

Design work is being done on the bridge for the George Washington Boulevard extension that will run from River Road west to Crosby Way. The bridge will span the Virgin River with city officials hoping to see construction start in the fall, Cutler said.

It is anticipated that the bridge may be finished before the actual roadway, which is undergoing an environmental assessment that is likely to take a year-plus to complete. Design work can begin once the assessment is published and reviewed, though it is not yet determined what the timetable on that may be at this point, Cutler added.

At least three new traffic lights are being installed over the next year at the intersections of Pioneer Road and SunRiver Parkway, Brigham Road and Bloomington Hills Drive, and Sunset Boulevard and 1300 West. The cost of the latter is being split between the city of St. George and UDOT.

The city will also be adding to its extensive trail system with a trail built along the Southern Corridor (state Route 7) between the Desert Color and Desert Canyon communities.

St. George Regional Airport

Rich Stehmeier (lower right), manager of the St. George Regional Airport, answers questions an expo attendee has about projects at the airport during 2024 Dixie Regional Transportation Expo held at the Dixie Convention Center, St. George, Utah, Feb. 13, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The St. George Regional Airport recently played host to overflow air traffic bound for Las Vegas during a Formula 1 racing event in December and more recently for Super Bowl LVIII. During these events, aircraft that couldn’t find a spot to roost in Las Vegas came to St. George instead.

“We had between 70 and 80 airplanes come in,” Airport Director Rich Stehmeier said, adding he expects a repeat performance when the PGA Tour comes to St. George later this year. By that point, Stehmeier said there are plans to have a temporary control tower set up to help with the increased air traffic.

The need for an air traffic control tower was highlighted during the transportation expo as well as during the State of the City address given by St. George Mayor Michele Randell later that day. The Federal Aviation Administration previously approved the airport for a tower, but that is contingent on the city’s funding and building the facility, which Stehmeier said could run up to $20 million. The city has until 2027 to build the tower or risk having the FAA approval reset.

City officials are currently looking to the Utah Legislature for aid in funding the tower project.

A rendering of what an air traffic control tower for the St. George Regional Airport may look like once built | Image courtesy of the city of St. George, St. George News

Projects currently underway at the airport include the reconstruction of the airport’s terminal ramp and apron (airplane parking area). The first phase of this work will wrap up by mid-March with the second phase starting in June. Once complete, the ramp and apron will be able to accommodate both larger and additional aircraft.

Work taking place within the terminal will see the expansion of its secure area (where people gather after passing through the TSA checkpoint). The expansion will include the second floor of the airport and allow Tailwind Concessions, which operates a small gift shop and concession area on the first floor, to move upstairs and create more of a restaurant and lounge environment that will also serve alcohol.

The secure area’s expansion is slated to be completed by June, Stehmeier said.

Suntran public transit

This file photo shows a SunTran bus feature at the 2018 Dixie Regional Transportation Expo, St. George, Utah, Feb. 13, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Currently, the primary focus of Suntran bus service is setting up the route between St. George and Springdale, Jessica Steed, grants program manager for the city of St. George, said while tending the Suntran booth.

A route between St. George and the gateway to Zion National Park has been in the works for some time and has gained significant headway in recent years. Suntran officials say they hope to start the new route by mid-summer. Five new buses will be used for the route and the city will be building a new facility dedicated to Suntran bus maintenance on Brigham Road.

The first decade of the Springdale route’s operation is being funded by UDOT and is promoted as a way to help lessen traffic congestion on the way to Zion National Park.

An additional bus is being ordered for the regular routes in St. George. Plans are in the works to reduce the 80-minute Ivins and Bloomington routes to 40 minutes.

St. George Police

Traffic violation/citation numbers from 2022 shared by the St. George Police Department at the 2024 Dixie Regional Transportation Expo, St. George, Utah, Feb. 13, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“We’re talking to people about what’s been going on with traffic and all things police,” St. George Police Officer Tiffany Mitchell said when asked why the Police Department had a booth at the expo.

Police officers on hand spoke with attendees about the causes of certain crashes and how best to prevent them, while also hearing from the public about their traffic-related frustrations.

The frustration of the day was red light runners, Mitchell said.

Police officers also shared a breakdown of traffic violations people were cited for in 2022. The vast majority of violations involved over 5,500 incidents of speeding. This was followed by 1,600 incidents of driver’s license violations and nearly 900 incidents where drivers had no insurance. Improper turns came in at 744 with red light runs coming in right below that at 743.

Other incidents involved unsafe level traffic, following too close and DUIs.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.

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