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CDOT awarded $59 million for U.S. 160 improvements in La Plata County

Additional travel and turn lanes east of Elmore’s Corner, wildlife fencing to be built
The intersection of U.S. Highway 160 and County Road 225A is one of several spots along the corridor east of Elmore’s Corner that will be upgraded in the coming years thanks, in part, to a $59 million grant award from the U.S. Department of Transportation. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The Colorado Department of Transportation has secured a $59 million federal grant to bankroll significant upgrades along U.S. Highway 160 in La Plata County.

Improvements will occur on the stretch of road between the intersection of 160 and State Highway 172, known as Elmore’s Corner, east through the intersection with County Road 225A to the wildlife underpass near Dry Creek.

The allocation from the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program, a U.S. Department of Transportation fund allocated in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will make a significant dent in the project’s $99 million price tag.

Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper both supported the request and celebrated the award, which also included a $29 million grant for improvements in Morgan County on Interstate 76.

“Both I-76 and U.S. 160 are critical for freight transport, tourism, recreation and access to natural resources for economic livelihood,” Bennet said in a news release. “These grant awards, made possible through the Bipartisan Infrastructure law, will be an important step toward making these gateways safer and more efficient for the Coloradans who rely on them.”

Gov. Jared Polis and CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew also expressed gratitude to the federal funders. CDOT will foot the remaining part of the bill.

The project will widen approximately 4.1 miles of 160 from two to four lanes and add 2.64 miles continuous two-way left turn lane from Elmore’s corner to the intersection with County Road 223.

CDOT will also install wildlife fencing along the length of the project and anticipates building at least one wildlife underpass.

The project will also include the installation of a roundabout at the intersection of 160 and County Road 225A.

The intersection is currently controlled only by stop signs for travelers along County Road 225A. Between 2015 and 2019, a CDOT study found that four severe crashes and one fatal crash occurred at the intersection. A roundabout is estimated to reduce severe crashes by as much as 79%.

Last year, La Plata County officials sought $25 million in grant funding for a similar project, however the larger award was the result of an expanded scope, CDOT spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes said.

In an email, Schwantes said the project is expected to:

  • Reduce crashes causing injury or fatality by 45%.
  • Reduce wildlife collisions by 90%.
  • Optimize the design life of the highway based on preventive maintenance.
  • Strengthen intermodal freight movement by eliminating major bottlenecks.
  • Reduce commuter travel times and improve access to goods, services and employment opportunities.

La Plata County Commissioner Matt Salka, who lives in Bayfield and represents the county’s eastern district, said he is “excited for all of us on the east side of La Plata County.”

He said he hears from residents of his district frequently with concerns about highway safety and the difficulty of passing along that section of road.

Although the roundabout proposal was initially met with some derision by local residents, Salka said that CDOT has done community outreach and concluded that it is the best method to improve safety at a historically deadly intersection.

“These funds propel us toward safer journeys on our adjacent county roads as well, providing a more efficient traffic flow and fostering a harmonious coexistence with wildlife,” he said in the news release. “These federal funds make it possible for a vital local project to move forward, cementing a legacy of progress and safety that resonates with every passing mile.”

Construction will begin by or before the fall of 2026.


This story has been updated. A previous version incorrectly spelled Commissioner Matt Salka’s last name.

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