The town board took a step toward a redesigned U.S. 160 corridor on Aug. 27 by approving an engineering company to start working on a plan.
The board unanimously approved contracting with Russell Engineering to draft the plan, and Town Administrator Andrea Phillips said the company will start this fall. She estimates the plan will take six to nine months to complete.
The plan will outline how to improve traffic flow, safety for pedestrians and bikes and the landscaping near the highway. It would also be used to estimate costs.
The town received three applications for the contract, and two companies were interviewed by town staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission chairwoman, Marianne Griffin. The group recommended Russell Engineering, of Durango, to the board because it was lowest, most qualified bidder.
The town did include the plan in this year's budget and will use money from three different funds to cover the $28,000 cost. The Colorado Department of Transportation may cover 50 percent of the cost if they agree with the scope of the work. But the agency may require traffic studies of intersections with could add $13,000 to the project. Phillips said it is likely CDOT will help with the project.
"They are doing this in every other community," she said.
Phillips expects to involve the community, especially businesses along frontage roads, in the planning process and hopes that a redesigned corridor will make areas near the highway more accessible to all. Currently, many of the frontage roads are chopped up.
"It really has divided the community," she said.
The town is also pursuing a grant to help cover a new crossing. The CDOT grant would cover 80 percent of a new pedestrian crossing at U.S. 160 and Beech Street.
A pedestrian crossing is estimated to cost $93,459, and if the town received the grant, it would be required to cover an estimated $18,692 in costs.
This crossing would connect the north and south sides of town, and it would be in line with school to make it safer for students walking from areas north of the highway.