YUMA — Residents will have a more reliable link with Yuma County’s largest employer, Yuma Proving Ground, thanks to a 600-foot bridge the Arizona Department of Transportation is building across a flood-prone section of US 95.
Work began this week on the $9.3 million bridge spanning Fortuna Wash northeast of Yuma and is expected to be completed by next winter.
In addition to being a key trade route between the U.S. and Mexico, US 95 near Yuma sees increased demand during the winter months from agricultural workers and seasonal visitors. The highway currently passes through the wash, which sees flash flooding that forces closures.
“Building a bridge over Fortuna Wash is a critical safety project for the Yuma County region, the Yuma Proving Ground and the agricultural industry,” said ADOT Southwest District Engineer Paul Patane. “Motorists rely on this roadway every day to travel between Yuma and Interstate 10, and flash flooding at Fortuna Wash has previously closed the only north-south corridor in the region, forcing motorists to take lengthy detours. This new bridge will be a huge benefit to the region.”
The bridge, partially funded through a $3.2 million federal grant ADOT received in 2011, is going in at milepost 34, approximately 12 miles northeast of Yuma and 10 miles south of the turnoff (Imperial Dam Road) to Yuma Proving Ground.
Yuma Proving Ground, a U.S. Army facility with more than 3,000 military and civilian employees, is one of the largest military installations in the world and home to General Motors’ hot-weather vehicle test facility. It has an economic impact of more than $430 million annually.
“I personally have waited many hours on Highway 95 over the years because Fortuna Wash floodwaters flowed over the road,” said Chuck Wullenjohn, public affairs officer at Yuma Proving Ground. “The new bridge will be a boon both for commuters and for YPG cargo shipments that will no longer face being impeded by a flowing wash.”
ADOT’s long-term goal is widening about 15 miles of US 95 between Avenue 9E to Aberdeen Road, but that project would first need to be funded. The Fortuna Wash bridge will be built to accommodate four lanes of traffic but initially striped for two lanes with center-turn lane.
Crews are scheduled to work on the Fortuna Wash bridge project during weekdays between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. Initial work will include setting up a temporary detour road and tree removals, while actual bridge construction is expected to begin in March.
Motorists should allow extra travel time as lane restrictions will be in place and flaggers will occasionally need to alternate traffic through the work zone.