The way to a new retail center near Three Springs is paved and nearing completion.
The $9.8 million Wilson Gulch Road connects the Grandview Interchange, better known as the Bridge to Nowhere, to Mercy Regional Medical Center. The road should be open in a week or two.
City of Durango, La Plata County and Colorado Department of Transportation officials gathered Thursday morning beneath the traffic lights for a future intersection to celebrate the road, which all the agencies helped fund.
Almost everyone sported trucker hats reading “Road to the Future” during the speeches and short procession.
The road was built to serve new big-box retail stores, and the area south of the road adjacent to U.S. Highway 160 is likely to develop first, said Nicol Killian, Durango’s assistant community development director.
La Plata County residents spend about $40 million annually shopping in Farmington, according to a 2011 study.
The new center will stop some of the loss of sales tax revenues, Mayor Christina Rinderle said, adding, “This is going to be so phenomenal.”
The spur will relieve some of the traffic at Highway 160 and Three Springs Boulevard, said Mike McVaugh, CDOT’s Region 5 transportation director.
“I think you will see an immediate use,” he said.
It will likely be faster for drivers, including emergency vehicles, headed to the hospital or Three Springs because they can bypass the traffic light at Three Springs Boulevard, he said.
However, it will be awhile before anyone can try it. The road will remain closed while crews pour concrete to hold manhole covers in place, finish striping the streets and install a sign, Durango Community Development Director Kevin Hall said.
“The concrete needs to cure for several days before it can be tested and put under the stress of traffic,” he said in an email.
While the work may be complete next week, it may be two weeks before the barricades are pulled back and the road opened, Hall said.
The road was scheduled to be completed last fall, but it was delayed by weather and financial issues.
The city, La Plata County and the CDOT contributed a total of $8.2 million for the project, but the city couldn’t find a contractor to complete the project for that price, said City Manager Ron LeBlanc.
So the city cut landscaping and sidewalks out of the 2015 budget and contracted with Four Corners Materials to complete the road.
Utilities were a third of the project cost. The other large-ticket items were the soil and rock excavation, road base preparation, concrete curb and gutter, and the asphalt, City Engineer Gregg Boysen said.
The city set aside additional money in 2016 to pay for project completion. Clarke and Co. from Grand Junction were hired for landscaping, irrigation and a 10-foot sidewalk, Boysen said.
Developers will be responsible for phasing in new roads to serve their stores.
The Planning Department has reviewed early conceptual site plans for projects that could occur along Wilson Gulch Road, but no development plans have been submitted, Boysen said.
Eventually, U.S. Highway 550 will be realigned to connect with the Grandview Interchange and replace the Farmington Hill intersection.
CDOT applied for a federal grant aimed at freight corridors to fund the project, but the effort was unsuccessful, McVaugh said. Realigning Highway 550 could cost $80 million.
CDOT is pursuing other federal and state funding opportunities, McVaugh said.