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Virgin River Gorge bridge improvements scheduled for Interstate 15

Drivers urged to allow extra travel time, plan for delays during construction
December 19, 2013

PHOENIX — As part of an ongoing effort to modernize the Interstate 15 Virgin River Gorge corridor, which was constructed in the 1960s and early 1970s in the far northwestern corner of Arizona, the Arizona Department of Transportation will begin a series of bridge rehabilitation projects in early 2014.

Beginning Monday, Jan. 6, ADOT will begin a $2.8 million project to upgrade the southbound bridge surfaces, repair girders and perform other work on Virgin River Bridge No. 2 (milepost 13), Bridge No. 3 (milepost 15) and Bridge No. 7 (milepost 22). Work is expected to be completed by summer 2014.

At the January 2014 State Transportation Board meeting, the board is expected to consider the award of a contract for the reconstruction of Virgin River Bridge No. 6 (milepost 16). This significant rehabilitation project will include the replacement of the bridge’s superstructure (girders, deck and railings), as well as widening the roadway through the narrow passage of the gorge.

The $27 million project, which received a federal grant awarded to ADOT last year in the fourth round of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER IV) grant program, is scheduled to launch in spring 2014 and be completed in 2015.

With limited alternate routes due to the remote location of the I-15 Virgin River Gorge corridor, ADOT urges drivers traveling between Mesquite, Nevada, and St. George, Utah, to plan ahead, allow extra travel time, slow down and drive carefully through the work zone. I-15 will be narrowed to one lane in each direction at each of the bridge projects and delays are expected.

Construction will occur primarily during weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The majority of the work will take place in the southbound lanes, requiring two-way traffic in the northbound lanes.

Despite its remote location in Arizona, I-15 is one of the most heavily traveled commercial and economic corridors linking southern California with the Rocky Mountain region. Ultimately, ADOT will need to rehabilitate all eight of the I-15 Virgin River bridges.

While the bridges are still considered safe for travel, they require extensive refurbishment to continue serving the substantial volume of traffic along the I-15 corridor. More than 1.4 million commercial trucks travel annually on Arizona’s portion of the interstate.

ADOT remains committed to the Interstate 15 corridor, which passes through the environmentally sensitive area of the Virgin River Gorge. When the 29-mile-long Arizona segment of I-15 opened in 1973, the Virgin River Gorge passage was the most expensive section of rural highway, per mile, constructed in the country.

In 2012, ADOT completed an $11.6 million pavement improvement project from the Virgin River to the Utah state line (mileposts 13-29) and has budgeted nearly $15 million to complete the repaving of the entire Arizona segment of the highway by paving a 13-mile portion that extends to the Nevada state line (mileposts 1-13) in 2015.

Funding all the I-15 Virgin River bridge rehabilitation projects will be a challenge. Current estimates for all the necessary improvements could cost as much as $250 million, which is why Arizona initiated discussions in 2011 with the Federal Highway Administration, Nevada and Utah to raise awareness of the situation on I-15 and explore opportunities to identify funding solutions.

ADOT works to inform the public about planned highway restrictions. Unscheduled restrictions or closures may occur. To stay up-to-date with the latest highway conditions around the state, visit the ADOT Traveler Information Center at az511.gov or call 5-1-1; outside Arizona, dial 1-888-411-ROAD (7623).

For more information about these projects, please visit www.azdot.gov/I15virginriver.