Motorists experience slight delays through Virgin River Gorge

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AHP leads a convoy of vehicles from the #2 Milemarker in Arizona Friday Morning. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

As part of the rehabilitation and replacement projects for the Virgin River Gorge Bridges, crews are working on a section of nearby cliffs to break off any potential safety hazards for motorists. “Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT)  is removing loose boulders that are threatening the Bridge #6 construction project,” said Sergeant John Bottoms with the Arizona Highway Patrol. ”

To reduce the risk of injury during this procedure, Arizona Highway Patrol is working with Pulice Construction to ensure that the traffic can flow through the gorge while being able to clear the debris from the roadways. Previous boulders that have been taken down have done as much damage as taking out the concrete partitions that line the I15 corridor. Now, imagine if that had been a car full of people. Not good.

“Approximately two weeks ago, we began doing traffic breaks to allow the scaling crews the opportunity to remove the loose boulders,” Bottoms added. “When the boulders from the top portion of the mountain began falling, they actually bounced from the shoulder onto both the northbound and southbound traffic lanes. We had planned for this contingency prior to the actual work beginning, but were somewhat surprised by the size of  some of the boulders that bounced over the containment screens.”

To make this traffic flow, AHP is doing what are called ‘Traffic Breaks’. Starting from the 2 milemarker on the Arizona side for northbound traffic, AHP patrol cars lead a long line of traffic at 20 to 25 miles per hour up to and through the gorge, coming out on the other side. The southbound traffic breaks begin at the Utah state line.

Can you see the falling rock?

Can you see the falling rock?

These breaks allow the crews to work on the rocks and clear any hazards from the roadway by the time the cars reach the gorge. Break times for traffic are usually around 15 to 20 minutes.

While these traffic breaks are seen as inconveniencing, they are absolutely necessary to ensure the safety of all workers and drivers.

The traffic breaks will continue as long as needed to reduce the risk of falling rocks. AHP Sergeant John Bottoms stated that the traffic breaks will be done as traffic allows. If the area becomes too congested, then they will suspend the traffic breaks until traffic lightens up.

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This is just a small portion of the damage that the falling boulders have caused since the project began. That boulder in the middle of the photo was originally twice as big, but split in half when it collided with a concrete barrier on the other side of the road. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

As of the time of this story, the traffic breaks were planned on occurring today and tomorrow between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. PST. On-site crews expect to have several more days of these breaks.

Travelers planning on going through the gorge should plan for a delay of at least 15 minutes in each direction. While traffic is not stopped, it will be much slower. Those wishing to avoid the traffic breaks are encouraged to use Old Highway 91 from Beaver Dam.

Check our Facebook page later today, as we are loading video of the falling rocks process!

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