ST. GEORGE — An $86 million federal grant awarded to the Utah Department of Transportation will allow for the construction of two new highway underpasses in St. George.

This map shows the general locations of the proposed underpasses on 400 East and 900 South in St. George that UDOT announced it had been awarded funding for | Map courtesy of Google Maps, St. George News

UDOT announced Thursday that a grant provided through the Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhood program will make way for underpasses connecting 400 East and 900 South and provide new access points beneath Interstate 15.

The underpasses are seen as a way to provide better connectivity between and around I-15 by connecting 400 East and 900 South at two separate points. The project is also anticipated to coincide with the widening of I-15 between the Bluff Street/Exit 6 and St. George Boulevard/Exit 8 interchanges already planned by UDOT.

“We are so thrilled to obtain funding through the Federal Reconnecting Communities & Neighborhoods Grant Program to create two much-needed underpasses in St. George,” St. George Mayor Michele Randall said in a statement.

“One of our biggest challenges is transportation,” the mayor said. “We live in a city with ridges to the north, west and east, two rivers and an interstate cutting through the middle of town. These underpasses will mean less time on the roads getting from Point A to Point B and help alleviate some of our traffic congestion.”

In addition to creating two new connections, the underpasses will include active transportation infrastructure (pedestrian and cycling), which will help decrease transportation-sector greenhouse gas emissions by improving multimodal access, mobility and safety. The improved connections will also help reduce vehicle miles traveled by providing a local option for shorter neighborhood trips.

Where a car makes the turn from 400 East onto 1160 South marks the location of one of two proposed I-15 underpasses that would connect 400 East to 900 South on the other side of the highway, St. George, Utah, March 14, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Through the UDOT application, St. George is receiving $87.6 million for the new underpasses. St. George is also one of 132 communities nationwide to receive a grant from the federal program that has awarded $3.3 billion overall.

The possibility of the underpasses was highlighted in a November 2022 pubic meeting that took public input on the proposed I-15/700 South interchange. Local residents at the time wanted UDOT to explore the underpasses over the interchange. UDOT officials were receptive to the idea of the underpasses in general, yet not as a part of the proposed 700 South interchange project.

The underpasses, while improving connectivity in the area, were determined not to have any major impact on traffic issues the 700 South interchange was being designed to address, Keven Kitchen, a spokesman for UDOT, said in a phone call with St. George News.

Construction of the underpasses would have to be their own project and funding wasn’t available at the time, Kitchen added. This led to a failed attempt by the city of St. George to apply for funding via the Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhood program in 2022. UDOT applied for the grant the next year and was subsequently awarded the funding.

On 900 South facing west toward I-15 where the road bends and becomes 400 East. Two underpasses proposed by UDOT would connect the segment of 400 East and 900 East on the other side of I-15 and provide better connectivity in that part of the city, St/ George, Utah, March 14, 2024 | Photo by Mori Kessler. St. George News

“UDOT credits community involvement from the residents and the city of St. George along with the Dixie Metropolitan Planning Organization in working toward a unified vision with UDOT,” Kitchen said in UDOT’s recent press release.

Kitchen added UDOT’s attempt at the grant and included 49 pages of letters of support, 30 pages of community outreach and seven pages of place-making and local design concepts.

Now that funding is no longer an issue, the UDOT road planners can incorporate the underpasses into plans to widen I-15 between the St. George Boulevard/Exit 8 and Bluff Street/Exit 6 interchanges.

UDOT is entering the final design phase of the Exits 6-8 widening project that will add a third lane to that stretch of roadway. Actual construction is expected to start sometime in 2025 with the current work on widening I-15 between Exits 10 and 13 (Green Springs and Washington Parkway) expected to wrap up later this year.

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