It looks like it’s going to be a relatively quiet year in 2020 for road improvement projects around the unincorporated parts of La Plata County.
According to the county’s Public Works Director Jim Davis, the proposed 2020 budget has only a few road and bridge projects included that would be carried out next year.
The projects include:
Paving an additional 3.1 miles on County Road 210, which accesses Lake Nighthorse. The project will finish work started in 2019.Complete a mill and overlay (pave) on 2.3 miles of County Road 502, northwest of Bayfield.Complete a culvert/siphon replacement project at the intersection of County Road 509 and Bayfield Parkway, which is a joint project with the town of Bayfield. Davis said the project will replace an old irrigation siphon under the parkway and improve sight distance at the intersection.The cost of the projects is budgeted for an estimated $3.12 million.
About $2.3 million is budgeted for the U.S. Highway 550 interchange, known locally as the “Bridge to Nowhere,” which seeks to replace the existing Farmington Hill route. The project is a joint effort between the Colorado Department of Transportation, La Plata County, the city of Durango and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.
La Plata County is expected to contribute about $250,000 to the project.
Construction on the interchange is expected to begin near the end of 2020, which means the county needs to budget its portion of the funds for that budget year, however, the majority of work and expenses won’t likely occur until 2021 and 2022, Davis said.
Also of note in the proposed 2020 budget is the money required to repair guardrails that were damaged during the heavy snow that occurred in winter 2018-19. The county, which usually allocates about $55,000 per year on guardrail projects, spent about $212,400 in 2019 and budgeted $150,000 for 2020.
Work proposed in 2020, however, is down from what the county’s Road & Bridge crew carried out this year, Davis said.
In 2019, crews paved 1.5 miles on County Road 210, 5.5 miles on East Animas Road (County Road 250) and 1.5 miles on County Road 318. Some smaller paving projects occurred in the Allison area in southeastern La Plata County. All told, the county spent about $4.2 million on paving work this year.
Davis said crews laid 20 miles of asphalt in 2019. This year, Road & Bridge is expected to focus more of its efforts on the county’s gravel roads.
La Plata County maintains 220 miles of paved roads and 440 miles of gravel road. But increasingly, it’s harder for Road & Bridge to have the funds necessary to maintain and improve roads as the county’s budget continues to fall, mostly a result of the decline of the oil and gas industry in the region.
A 2017 study found La Plata County’s roads are, for the most part, in good condition. That same study, however, said Road & Bridge requires a $4.58 million operating budget to maintain the roads.
This year, La Plata County officials, for the first time in years, said the fall in the county’s operating budget is finally showing signs of evening out, allowing the county to start reinvesting in areas like staffing, services and road projects.
Road & Bridge’s operating budget for 2020 is a proposed $3.9 million.
La Plata County commissioners are expected to adopt the budget Dec. 10.