VIRGIN RIVER GORGE – Southern Utah residents may have to pay to travel through the Gorge if the Arizona Department of Transportation gets its way.
ADOT is asking the federal government to allow a toll road on the 12-mile stretch of Interstate 15 that goes through Arizona. It was not a well-known plan until Las Vegas media got wind of it.
According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, the toll seems to be aimed at truckers, but ADOT apparently never told the Arizona Trucking Association about the request.
The Review Journal quoted a letter from Karen Rasmussen, president of the Arizona Trucking Association.
“Clearly ADOT did not contact any of its industry stakeholders and are laying the ‘blame’ on this on our State Transportation Board,” Rasmussen wrote in a letter disseminated to members. “This thing has legs. I’ve gotten a call from our congressional offices wanting to know our position, and we have several key state legislators who’ve come out in support of this.”
According to the ADOT website, the stretch of I-15 going through the Gorge is in desperate need of repair, but so few Arizona residents travel that road, it would be unfair to ask Arizona taxpayers to saddle the burden of those costs.
“The Arizona stretch of I-15 is several decades old and is in need of rehabilitation,” according to ADOT. “The most urgent, and costly, element of work is eight bridge rehabilitations that all cross the Virgin River within the Virgin River Gorge. All have been identified by ADOT engineers as deficient or near-deficient. Because of the difficult terrain, the work will be costly, estimated at approximately $165 million. Safety features such as widened shoulders, enhanced guardrails, and signage are also needed.”
ADOT says there are 29.4 miles of Arizona roads between Nevada and Utah state lines, and serves only 1,200 Arizona residents.
“However, I-15 is an important national route, connecting San Diego to the Canadian border in Montana. It is recognized as a Corridor of National Significance because it is critical to freight movement from the southern California ports to the central United States, and has also been selected by USDOT as one of six Corridors of the Future, as well as being part of the federally designated Canamex corridor.”
It’s those truckers that ADOT appears to be targeting. Of the 20,000 to 24,000 vehicles that travel that stretch of road each day, only 24 percent of the traffic is trucks. But preliminary estimates are asking truckers to pay $8 per truck and $1-2 per passenger vehicles, according to the ADOT website. The Review Journal states the tolls could be $6 per truck and $3 per passenger vehicles.
However, ADOT must get approval from the Federal Highway Administration because it is “tolling an existing interstate.”
Because of the difficult terrain, the estimated cost to fix I-15 is $165 million. ADOT has already set aside $3 million. They hope to have the road fixed by 2017.
ADOT is currently in talks with Nevada and Utah “about the possibility of using a public private partnership to finance the construction and tolling to repay the investment.”
Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.