Update Traffic Advisory: Traffic backed up through Virgin River Gorge

Stock image| St. George News

Editor’s Note: As of 8 p.m., northbound traffic is now moving freely through the Virgin River Gorge on Interstate 15, Arizona Department of Public Safety Sgt. John Bottoms said.

VIRGIN RIVER GORGE, Ariz. — Heavy northbound traffic is creating a severe backup of vehicles stretching for miles beginning at the entrance of the Virgin River Gorge section of Interstate 15 Saturday.

“The northbound lanes are backed up over four miles now and it’s a mess,” Arizona Department of Public Safety Sgt. John Bottoms said at 4:30 p.m.

Heavier traffic flows compounded by ongoing construction on the stretch of I-15 running through Arizona are contributing to the congestion.

Alternate route

Those seeking to avoid the traffic backup in the Virgin River Gorge may take Highway 91 as an alternate route, which may save travel time and reduce congestion, Bottoms said.

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.

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

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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