MOHAVE COUNTY, Arizona - AAA is expecting a record number of travelers on the roads this holiday season, but those heading south on I-15 will hit a snag in the Virgin River Gorge.
This weekend, crews will start demolition on bridge number six. It’s a project that’s been underway since early this year. The Arizona Department of Transportation said the 50-year-old bridge is in disrepair and needs to be replaced. Early Friday morning, traffic will be forced onto the southbound side of the freeway so construction crews can begin the demolition work.
“We would advise drivers to plan ahead, allow some extra travel time, and drive carefully through the work zone,” ADOT Spokesman Dustin Krugel said.
Krugel said they always anticipate more travelers around busy holidays, particularly this weekend with the University of Utah and Colorado State playing in the Las Vegas bowl. Farther out, AAA estimates more than 7.4 million residents in the mountain west will travel on the road this holiday season. The construction has forced many to plan ahead to travel early.
“Coming home from Thanksgiving, they had it one lane,” traveler Stephen Webster said. "Everything was shut down. So they just had people just sitting in their cars, so what would normally take an hour took me up to three hours.”
That’s why this year Webster traveled home for Christmas a week early to avoid the traffic. Others, like Whitney Harris, said they’ll just wait until after the holidays to hit the road.
“Been there, done that. It’s a little crazy,” Harris said. “Just trying to get to all the family in such a short amount of time is just nuts.”
The demolition of the Virgin River Gorge bridge isn’t going to happen all at once, it’s actually going to take place over several weeks, the reason: it needs to be taken a part piece by piece, so as not to disturb on the surrounding habitats
“This is a very environmentally sensitive area in the Virgin River Gorge,” Krugal said.
The bridge reconstruction project is expected to be complete December 2015.