ARIZONA STRIP - The Arizona Department of Transportation is beginning work on another major construction project in the Virgin River Gorge, making an already tight drive even tighter and extending the headaches for another couple years.
Crews are currently in the middle of a bridge resurfacing on three of the bridges in the gorge, putting traffic at one lane in two spots. The latest $27 million project will completely rebuild another one of the bridges near mile post 16.
“It’s a critical roadway,” said ADOT spokesperson Dustin Krugel. “We have so much business and trucks that go through this area, about one fourth of the traffic is commercial truck traffic.”
Krugal said that heavy traffic is the main reason the bridge needs to be replaced so badly. Originally built in the’60s and ‘70s, the bridge, while safe to drive on now, is deteriorating. Bridge number six has been identified by ADOT as a top priority project.
“There is minor rehabilitation that has been done on these bridges for the last 50 years,” Krugal said. “But eventually the lifespan of bridges come to an end.”
The bridge will be rebuilt in stages, with a new steel girders and a wider deck. Throughout construction, ADOT will keep one lane of traffic each way, but work will continue into 2016. That may cause ongoing headaches for some who travel the gorge every day.
Residents in Beaver Dam, Arizona, just south of the gorge, said they’ve seen a dramatic increase in traffic through town from those trying to avoid the congested interstate. Old highway 91 is really the only alternate route to get around the gorge.
“It’s at least doubled,” Resident Bob Hensman said. “I’d even say tripled. Traffic has tripled. And it’s just faster, to come the other way.”
Right now, engineers are finishing up some surveying on the bridge reconstruction project. Drivers will notice some lane restrictions in the next couple of weeks.
More information on the project can be found on ADOT’s website.
For current traffic conditions in the gorge, drivers in Arizona can call 511, or check the website before traveling.