ST. GEORGE -- Drivers in St. George are navigating a new intersection and some say it’s going to take getting used to.
The Utah Department of Transportation reopened the St. George Boulevard Interstate 15 interchange Tuesday in the new “diverging diamond” configuration. The diverging diamond works by putting traffic on the left hand side of the road through the intersection.
The $16 million dollar project is a collaboration between the city and the state, and project managers are pleased with progress, saying it’s opening about a week and a half ahead of schedule.
“The original schedule was to have all of this by Black Friday, Thanksgiving,” said project manager Kim Manwill. “When we bid this project that was one of the primary goals.”
That particular interchange is one of the busiest in the area, and one identified in a study done to identify areas of improvement through 2040.
“Just a few seconds makes a big difference with how much traffic backs up,” Manwill said. “What that [the new intersection] does is that eliminates that conflict between through movement and left turn movement.”
Another major change is the inclusion of pedestrian access on the overpass. Previously there were no sidewalks or ways for pedestrians to safely cross. Mayor Dan McArthur said it was an aspect the city insisted be included.
“The pedestrian side has been very important, but moving traffic is critical to us,” McArthur said. “I’m really excited about the cooperation that we’ve had, particularly with this design-build.”
Not all drivers share the mayor’s enthusiasm. Driver Pamela Spangle said she tried to avoid the new interchange, but was forced to take it as part of her morning commute.
“I ended up having to go through it,” Spangle said. “I didn’t know which lane to get into, which lane is for the freeway, and you don’t know which lane is for Red Cliffs.”
But other drivers say they didn’t notice any difficulty.
“I really didn’t think much about it, I’m sorry to day,” said driver Dana Kelvington.
“It wasn’t confusing. I thought wow, this is great. This is new.”
There are a few minor projects that still need to be completed, like landscaping and lighting. Manwill said those should be complete by Dec. 19.