With a focus on maintaining infrastructure, the Colorado Department of Transportation has an estimated $94 million in roadwork planned for Region 5 this summer and fall.
A 9.1-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 160 will be resurfaced from the Montezuma County line to about 2 miles west of the intersection of U.S. 160 and Colorado Highway 140 at Hesperus. The project is set for the fall and projected at $7.3 million.
Because the road is wide in that stretch, traffic delays are anticipated to be minimal and last for no more than 15 minutes at a time, Nancy Shanks, CDOT spokeswoman, said in an interview Friday.
A wildlife crossing – an underpass for large animals – will be built under U.S. 160 about five miles east of Elmore’s Corner, between mile markers 97 and 98 outside Durango. Highway shoulders will be widened, and wildlife fencing will be installed on both sides of the highway to funnel animals into the underpass.
Because of the presence of migratory birds, the work will begin after Sept. 1; it is scheduled to run through November. Shanks said it is expected that the majority of work will be done outside travel lanes, and no major traffic delays are anticipated during construction.
As many as 75 percent of the accidents that occur between Durango and Bayfield are collisions between vehicles and animals, Shanks said.
“That is a huge migration corridor out there,” she said.
Region 5 covers all or part of 15 counties in Southwest Colorado, reaching north into Ouray County and part of Montrose County, northeast as far as Chaffee County and as far east as Costilla County.
“Most of our projects this season focus on maintaining our existing infrastructure,” CDOT Region 5 Transportation Director Kerrie Neet said in a news release. “We are waterproofing bridges, rehabilitating pavement, repairing retaining walls, doing what we can to extend the life of our assets, some of which were constructed more than 50 years ago.”
There are 23 total projects budgeted that involve road and bridge construction, traffic and safety, culverts, retaining walls and rock-fall mitigation. About 68 miles of highway, 10 bridges and 10 culverts are on the list.
Another large project that will affect many regional drivers is on a 14-mile stretch of U.S. 160 from near Bayfield east to the bottom of Yellow Jacket Pass. Deep patch repair, a one-inch leveling and a pavement overlay will be done and a new guardrail installed. The project is set at $7.7 million.
Other area projects of note:
In downtown Ignacio, a traffic signal will be installed and improvements made at the intersection of state highways 151 and 172. It will be just the second traffic signal in Ignacio.
This is a partnership among CDOT, the town of Ignacio, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and La Plata County. The project’s cost is $1.8 million, and work is expected to run from Sept. 8 through Dec. 23.
On Red Mountain Pass, a $5.8 million project will repair five existing crib walls, construct a reinforced concrete slab underneath the road in one spot and excavate rock in another. Crib walls are retaining walls placed below a road surface and are common on U.S. Highway 550 over Red Mountain Pass.
There will be some single-lane, alternating traffic and two nights of full closures to enable crews to install a pipe under the highway. The work is scheduled to begin in July and last into September.
Also, work continues on a project to link Wilson Gulch Road from Mercy Regional Medical Center to the future U.S. Highway 550/160 interchange, known colloquially as the Bridge to Nowhere. The $8.2 million project, managed by the city of Durango with costs split among several entities, began in 2014.
Although this 0.67-mile extension is not actually part of the state highway system, “it’s a benefit to the state system, so we partner in,” Shanks said.