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Roadwork season’s here

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Bunky Maestas, with Snooks Concrete, wires rebar Wednesday while building a deer guard, similar to a metal cattle guard, on U.S. Highway 550 south of Farmington Hill in the 1½-mile-long, four-lane expansion project.

By Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer

Three state highway projects under way in La Plata County aren’t meant to frustrate motorists at a time of peak travel, a Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman says.

“They were all planned a long time ago,” Nancy Shanks said Wednesday while observing work at U.S. Highway 550 and County Road 302 south of Durango.

There, CDOT is widening a 1½-mile stretch of Highway 550 to provide two lanes in either direction, divided by a grassy median that varies from 16 to 36 feet wide.

“This is a safety project,” Shanks said. “The intersection is No. 5 on the priority list of CDOT’s Region 5.”

Two new northbound lanes are being built this year. Traffic will be switched to those lanes in 2013 while the southbound lanes are built, she said.

Road base from the existing highway is being recycled.

Left-turn lanes will be added on the southbound side and right-turn lanes will be built on the northbound side of Highway 550.

A left-turn acceleration lane onto southbound Highway 550 from westbound County Road 302 is planned.

Amber LED flashers will be added to existing warning signs to help catch the attention of motorists.

Wildlife fencing, wildlife-detection areas at the fence’s ends and anti-wildlife guards– similar to cattle guards but wider – are included in the project.

In wildlife-detection areas, an underground cable detects changes in electromagnetic fields. When large animals such as deer, elk and horses cross the cable, the system is triggered and lighted signs along the highway alert motorists to the presence of the animals.

Metal tubes, 4 feet in diameter, beneath the highway will allow passage of small animals, and four earthen ramps adjacent to travel lanes will allow deer that stray onto the pavement to jump over the fence to safety.

Old Castle SW Group Inc. has the contract for the $4.77 million project.

The Highway 550 widening, which has been planned for decades, Shanks said, will continue until the entire 16 miles between the New Mexico line and Farmington Hill has the same look.

The end of the work depends on the CDOT budget, Shanks said.

Only the first few miles of the highway north of the state line currently is divided.

Another current project is improvement to the 45-year-old road bridge across the Animas River at Highway 550 and Highway 160.

Delays at least 20 minutes, are expected Tuesday and Wednesday while crews apply a final epoxy overlay for waterproofing and protection of the concrete deck.

The commute Wednesday will be particularly slow, Shanks said, because drivers arriving from the west on Highway 160 and heading for points east will not have the on-ramp available.

They will have to proceed to the stoplight to turn right, she said.

The timing of stoplights at the DoubleTree Hotel intersection, College Avenue, Ninth Street and 17th Street will be modified to ease the congestion, she said.

After Wednesday, delays at the bridge project will be intermittent, Shanks said.

G.A. Western Construction of Palisade is the contractor. The work is expected to be done by June 15 and cost $479,000.

The third project, chip-sealing the 34 miles of Colorado Highway 151 from Ignacio to U.S. Highway 160 at Lake Capote, is expected to wrap up by Friday, Shanks said.

Last winter, CDOT maintenance workers sealed cracks in the highway in preparation for chip-sealing.

“Chip-sealing is done to protect a highway that is in good or fair condition,” Shanks said.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe paid for the materials, and CDOT sealed and leveled the road. Intermountain Slurry Seal was the contractor for the $1.3 million project.

Two road projects in unincorporated La Plata County also can cause delays for drivers.

The first phase of improving East Animas Road (County Road 250) from 32nd Street to the La Plata Association substation is winding up.

But paving is expected to start in late June and last four to five weeks.

The second project will add turn lanes on County Road 210 at the intersection with Wildcat Canyon Road (County Road 141). The work is expected to be done by the middle of June.

Traffic delays are expected at both work sites.

CDOT has 16 projects planned for this year from Ridgway, Telluride and Ophir to Pagosa Springs. The list includes work in Breen, Cortez and Red Mountain Pass. The total value of the projects is $80 million.

daler@durangoherald.com

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