‘We see a lot of people heading south’: Caution advised as vacationers descend on Southern Utah’s roads

ST. GEORGE — Long considered the unofficial end of summer, Labor Day sparks a large wave of travel as vacationers seek that last hoorah of the season before cooler temperatures roll in and school gets back on track. And as the holiday weekend approaches, heavy traffic is expected in Southern Utah.

In this file photo, traffic backs up at the St. George Boulevard/Exit 8 interchange, St. George, Utah, Feb. 12, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Many will begin to hit the roads Thursday and Friday to migrate south from northern Utah to destinations like Zion National Park, Sand Hollow State Park, St. George and beyond, Kevin Kitchen, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation, told St. George News.

“It’s that last vacation of the year, so we see a lot of people heading south,” he said.

In order to keep travel on Interstate 15 clear for the holiday weekend, UDOT isn’t engaging in any highway construction or maintenance projects during that time, Kitchen said.

As southbound travel hits Washington County and St. George over the next few days, a bit of congestion on southbound highway ramps off Interstate 15 and the surrounding roadways is expected to take place.

Traffic on St. George Boulevard through 1000 East and River Road is anticipated to be high as a result of the holiday traffic. The 1000 East intersection is one of St. George’s main entry and exit points and is considered one of the worst intersections for crashes in the city and Utah overall.

As increased traffic and congestion hits St. George and surrounding communities, motorists are advised to be patient and observant while also maintaining a safe distance between themselves and the vehicle ahead of them.

Heavy traffic is also expected on state Route 9 as travelers head to Zion National Park, Kitchen said.

Virgin River Bridge No. 1, Beaver Dam, Arizona, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of the Arizona Department of Transportation, St. George News

South of St. George and on the other side of the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona, transportation officials confirmed there will be no road closures impacting Labor Day weekend travel. However, new traffic restrictions for the area will be introduced Wednesday as bridge work continues.

Further south in Nevada, the Nevada Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies will be engaged in operations to apprehend impaired drivers. These efforts started Thursday and will run through Sept. 13. Nevada itself is experiencing a 10-year spike in fatal car crashes, according to a press release.

“Impaired driving doesn’t mean just alcohol; it is anything that affects your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle,” the Nevada Highway Patrol states in the press release. “Being a responsible driver is simple: if you are impaired, do not drive. Whether it’s a designated driver or public transportation, everyone should make sure they have a plan in place to avoid any chance of making a poor decision that could lead to unnecessary tragedy.”

While southbound traffic is expected to be heavy, Kitchen said he’s more concerned about the return-trip traffic that will hit Monday.

“A lot of people wait till the last minute to return home, and they all seem to converge on northbound I-15 at the same time,” he said.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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