Traffic advisory: Holiday travel backup on I-15 through Virgin River Gorge

Stock image | St. George News

UPDATE 4:39 p.m. — The backup northbound has traffic backed up about 3 miles north of Mesquite, Bottoms said. The southbound backup has reached about 4-5 miles.

UPDATE 2:23 p.m. — Traffic is backed up in excess of 8 miles and officers are intermittently routing all passenger car traffic up Old Highway 91, Bottoms said.

UPDATE 1:32 p.m. — Southbound traffic has begun to experience delays as well. Motorists traveling south can expect at least an additional 30 minutes to their trip, Bottoms said.

VIRGIN RIVER GORGE, Ariz. — Northbound traffic through the Virgin River Gorge section of Interstate 15 is backed up about 4 miles and growing, the Arizona Department of Public Safety reported just before noon MST Sunday.

“The traffic backups are just north of Littlefield,” Arizona DPS Sgt. John Bottoms said,  “which will add 90-plus minutes to motorists’ travel today.”

Bottoms said if motorists wish to avoid lengthy delays they should consider taking Old Highway 91, see alternate route directions below.

Motorists should not attempt to turn around in the median strip, Bottoms said. It is illegal to cross the median except for authorized vehicles. Highway patrol troopers will issue citations for vehicles turning in that manner.

Though potential delays triggered by holiday travel are generally expected, the slowed travel through the gorge is compounded by ongoing construction and rehabilitation work on highway bridges on the stretch of I-15 running through Arizona. Motorists are advised to practice patience and caution while traveling through the Virgin River Gorge if they choose to take that route.

Alternate route

Highway 91 between St. George, Utah, and Littlefield, Arizona | Image from
Highway 91 between St. George, Utah, and Littlefield, Arizona | Image from

Those seeking to avoid the traffic backup in the Virgin River Gorge may take Highway 91 as an alternate route. The highway bypasses the gorge entirely, intersecting with I-15 at Exit 8 in Littlefield, Arizona, to the south and connecting to St. George at the north via Santa Clara and Sunset Boulevard. See map included in this article.

ADOT Bridge rehabilitation project

Bridges in the Virgin River Gorge were originally constructed in the 1970s. When this section of highway was built, it was the most expensive rural interstate highway built, per mile, and was completed in 1973 after a decade of construction.

ADOT began work in January 2014 to modernize and rehabilitate bridges through the Gorge. Work on three of the bridges has been completed, specifically surfaces for Virgin River Bridge No. 2 at milepost 13, Bridge No. 3 at milepost 15 and Bridge No. 7 at milepost 22.

Work began on Bridge No. 6 in the spring of 2014 and is anticipated to be completed in the spring of 2016. Bridge No. 6 involves a $27 million rehabilitation project replacing the bridge’s superstructure — girders, deck and railings — as well as widening the roadway through the narrow passage of the Gorge.

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