A southern Utah city is trying to make the road safer for bicyclists after fatalities

Old Highway 91 in Ivins is getting an $8.9 million remodel.

(Mark Eddington | The Salt Lake Tribune) Traffic on Old Highway 91 averaged 2,100 cars per day in 2019, the latest figures available. That’s more than triple the 660 cars per day in 2016.

Ivin’s • Increased traffic and two fatal bicycle accidents on Old Highway 91 are prompting the Ivins leadership to redesign a 5.8 km stretch of the highway bisecting the southwest Utah city for $8.9 million.

“The road is worn out. It’s past its useful life,” said Ivins Mayor Chris Hart. “We need to redo it in some form, and adding a layer of chip seal isn’t going to meet security requirements.”

The condition of the dual carriageway is just one of their problems. It’s also too narrow, has no turning lanes, which causes traffic jams, and insufficient hard shoulders for cyclists.

“We’ve had two fatalities in the last 15 years where a vehicle collided with a cyclist because there isn’t a proper bicycle shoulder on Highway 91,” said Chuck Gillette, Ivins director of public works.

Traffic numbers along the once-remote route have skyrocketed dramatically as Indigo Trails, Mojave Mesa and other major new subdivisions appear along the highway. Aggravating matters further is the construction of the Arizona section of Interstate 15 near the Virgin River Gorge. To avoid delays, many drivers leave the Interstate at Beaver Dam and take Highway 91 back over Utah Hill, through Ivins and on to Santa Clara and St. George.

Traffic on the highway averaged 2,100 cars per day in 2019, the latest figures available. That’s more than triple the 660 cars per day in 2016, according to the Utah Department of Transportation.

Myron Lee, director of transportation planning at the Dixie Metropolitan Planning Organization, said traffic numbers this year are undoubtedly much higher than 2019, as all new construction and vehicles are diverted off the freeway onto Highway 91.

“We have too many bikes, RVs, semi trucks and pedestrians on this street – all trying to share the same space,” Lee said.

To remedy the situation, Ivins is planning a two-phase project that will involve resurfacing and widening the road, adding turning lanes and roundabouts at major intersections, and building a path for cyclists and pedestrians.

The city is currently short on funds to fund both phases of the project, but has about $8.9 million to begin the initial phase — over $3.5 million from the Dixie Metropolitan Planning Organization, $809,000 from the Utah Department of Transportation and $710,000 from the Washington County Government Council. According to Gillette, Ivins has pledged over $3.8 million for the initial phase.

Ivin’s officials plan is to use that money to resurface 1.4 miles of Highway 91 from 200 East to 600 West (Kwavasa Drive), add seven feet of paved shoulders on each side of the road for bike lanes, 200 East, Main Street and realign 200 West to intersect the freeway at the correct right angle and add left turn and delay lanes at those locations.

Phase one also envisages adding roundabouts at the 400 West and 600 West intersections on the freeway and building a 10-foot wide path for cyclists and pedestrians on the north side of the road, stretching from 200 East to West for up to three miles the Shivwits Band of Paiutes Reservation.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Hart said the city just bid for phase one. Construction is slated to begin late this year or early 2023. Once additional funding is available for the second phase, the mayor added, the city will expand and improve the remaining 1.6 miles of highway from 600 West to Fire Lake Park Ivins Reservoir, which borders the reservation.

While the city doesn’t now lack enough funds for the entire project, Ivin’s councilman, Lance Anderson, thinks it makes sense to get started.

“Everything gets more expensive later,” he said.

However long it takes to complete the entire project, Barb Pridie from Ivins is willing to wait before venturing onto the busy motorway on her bike. The retired registered nurse was hit by a car while riding her bike years ago and is not afraid of a repeat.

“I’m not going to take the risk of that happening again,” she said. “That’s why I’m really looking forward to an expanded, safer motorway.

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2022/08/06/southern-utah-town-tries-make/ A southern Utah city is trying to make the road safer for bicyclists after fatalities

Justin Scacco

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