UDOT open house unveils Bluff Street redesign, sees strong turnout

ST. GEORGE – The public turned out in force to learn about the latest Utah Department of Transportation designs for Bluff Street improvements at an open house Tuesday held in the City Council Chambers at St. George City Hall, 175 E. 200 North.

UDOT's new design for the Bluff Street and Sunset Boulevard intersection | Image courtesy of Utah Department of Transportation, St. George News
UDOT’s new design for the Bluff Street and Sunset Boulevard intersection | Image courtesy of Utah Department of Transportation, St. George News | Click image to enlarge

At the open house, UDOT officials presented design changes and answered questions about the project proposed for widening and improving Bluff Street between St. George Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard.

St. George resident Hans Chamberlain attended the open house, and was happy with what he learned.

“I travel this route sometimes several times a day,” he said, “I’ve followed this development at several of these kind of meetings, and I think the plan that they’ve proposed will work very well for the next few years. It looks very good to me.”

The new design is more reflective of the dominant traffic patterns, UDOT spokesman Kevin Kitchen said, which is an ”S” curve that runs westbound on St. George Boulevard, moves north onto Bluff Street, and then west onto Sunset Boulevard.

UDOT's new design for north Bluff Street, including the St. George Boulevard intersection | Image courtesy of Utah Department of Transportation, St. George News
UDOT’s new design for north Bluff Street, including the St. George Boulevard intersection | Image courtesy of Utah Department of Transportation, St. George News | Click image to enlarge

The new designs are refinements made to previous plans, and include a re-evaluation of a previous environmental study of the project, Kitchen said.

The project plans seven lanes on Bluff Street – three in each direction plus a center turn lane – from St. George Boulevard north to Sunset Boulevard, and includes redesigned interchanges.

Engineers have narrowed the lanes from the previous 12 feet with a 14-foot center turn lane to 11 feet with a 12-foot center lane. This will allow the seven-lane design to fit in a narrower footprint, with fewer disruptions to property owners, Kitchen said, while at the same time staying within a safe margin for drivers.

At the Sunset Boulevard intersection, the current sharp turn will be straightened out, favoring traffic moving from Bluff Street to Sunset Boulevard, and vice-versa, design engineer Ryan Richins said, and this will allow traffic to flow more efficiently through the intersection.

The new intersection design will be at ground level rather than having any elevated structures, Kitchen said, and will spare Red Hills Golf Course, a portion of which would have been taken by the previous “jug-handle” design. In addition, pedestrian access has been added for the Sunset Boulevard intersection.

Residents ask questions at the UDOT open house Tuesday about the new design for Bluff Street improvements, St. George, Utah, Aug. 18, 2015 | Photo by Leanna Bergeron, St. George News
Residents ask questions at the UDOT open house Tuesday about the new design for Bluff Street improvements, St. George, Utah, Aug. 18, 2015 | Photo by Leanna Bergeron, St. George News

With the new design, 75 feet of City Creek will be placed in a culvert, and .01 acres of wetlands impacted. There will be minimal impacts to Sandtown Park, Dixie Red Hills Golf Course and the Bluff Street Trail, according to project documents.

Total cost of the project is estimated at $51 million, Kitchen said, and about 50 percent of the cost of the project could be right-of-way acquisitions.

Twenty-six businesses in nine commercial buildings will require relocation; and the project will require nine full-property acquisitions and 41 partial acquisitions, in which part of a landowner’s property is purchased by UDOT.

“We work with (the property owners) individually, one-on-one, to try to work through that situation,” Kitchen said.

“The property owners along this corridor,” Kitchen said, “they’ve been working with these right-of-way issues for a couple of years now.”

The process is well-defined, and UDOT works with landowners to come to a mutually agreeable solution, Kitchen said, and if all else fails, the state has an ombudsman that people can go to if they think the process has not been done correctly.

Eminent domain is usually a last resort, obviously,” Kitchen said.

It’s unusual for a project to get to this stage, of re-evaluating the environmental phase, because UDOT officials have continued to listen and try to adjust to the needs of landowners and other stakeholders, Kitchen said.

“In a sense,” he said, “it’s great to actually be at a re-evaluation stage where we’re this zeroed in.”

Construction will most likely begin in 2018, Kitchen said, and could take a year or more. The time element is part of the bid process along with cost, so more weight is given to bids with a shorter time frame. This helps to minimize the impact on the public.

Some components of the project such as the “bulb” U-turn structures will not be constructed immediately, Kitchen said, but rather phased in over time as needed. The project is intended to meet travel demands through the year 2040.

Public comments may be submitted through Sept. 1.

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1 Comment

  • R. September 2, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    51 million dollars and they’re doing nothing to fix the problem, such a waste . So frustrating.

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