[Editor's Note: Even if you aren't affected by the road construction in Virgin River Gorge, there's a helpful tip about merging in the video above. Skip to the one minute mark to learn the correct way to merge when traffic is reduced to one lane.]
MOHAVE COUNTY, Arizona - Drivers on I-15 through the Virgin River Gorge have noticed an already slow drive got a lot slower this week.
The Arizona Department of Transportation temporarily lowered the speed limit from 45 mph through the construction zone to 25 mph. A department spokesperson said the reduction was necessary while crews poured the concrete that will form the new bridge deck.
“We need to ensure that there’s not heavy traffic going through that area at high speeds,” ADOT Spokesman Dustin Krugel said.
Crews spent 12.5 hours Monday night pouring the deck, and they raised the speed limit Wednesday night after it had cured. The milestone marks the almost-halfway point in a $27 million project to completely replace bridge number six.
“These were bridges that were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s, and they needed rehabilitation,” Krugel said. “This was the first bridge identified that needed work, so we're reconstructing the entire bridge.”
Traffic has been down to one lane in each direction since the project began last year, and Arizona Highway Patrol Officer Gregg McBride said, for the most part, people are following posted signs--but delays are to be expected.
“We are experiencing some backup at this time,” McBride said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re monitoring the backup with three DPS officers in the construction zone.”
Arizona DPS has said one of the main reasons for backups has to do with drivers merging too soon before the lane restrictions. Officers said semis are being directed into the merge lane, while motorists should use the other as long as possible.
“Be patient with us,” McBride said. “We’re doing the best we can and move this project along as quickly as possible.”
McBride said he believed the project was about three months ahead of schedule. Crews still have a little bit of work to do before they’re ready to make the switch and put traffic on the northbound bridge next month. At that time, they’ll start demolition on the southbound bridge. The entire project is expected to be complete next year.