Negotiating the craters, fissures, ripples, and swells on U.S. 491 from Towaoc to the New Mexico line feels like riding the high seas at 70 mph.
The neglected stretch of highway has gotten the attention of the Colorado Department of Transportation, which will repave it this summer.
The $14 million project will include a full-depth reclamation on the 25-mile stretch of two-lane blacktop, said CDOT engineer Mike Coggins.
“We’re expecting to start after July 4, and Skanska will be doing the work,” he told the Montezuma County commissioners.
Additional improvements are also planned north of Towaoc. A left-hand turn lane will be installed for safer access into Woodies Convenience store for southbound traffic. Passing lanes will also be added along that stretch.
Part of a proposed plan for U.S. 160/491 is a major change for County Road 21. Pending successful negotiations with a landowner, CDOT is considering eliminating the intersection of Road 21 and the highway to accommodate for a northbound passing lane there.
“There is not enough room within our easement for a passing lane and a left-hand turn lane (onto Road 21),” Coggins said.
Instead of connecting to the highway, a cul-de-sac would be installed at the end of Road 21. Access to that neighborhood would be redirected to County Road B, where a left-hand turn lane will be installed and road improvements made.
Only 18 cars per day turn left onto Road 21, and the intersection of Roads B and 21 is deemed adequate by CDOT to handle the extra traffic.
The Road 21 intersection and Road B access improvements are in the design phase, and will go on the shelf pending funding for installation.
“A passing lane in that area of Road 21 is one of the highest needs in the area,” Coggins said. “We have limited room there, and what we want to avoid is a dangerous situation where a vehicle is stopped in a passing lane waiting to turn left onto 21.”