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Durango’s ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ to close for one year

Long-delayed project may be going somewhere
Drivers pass underneath the Grandview Interchange, part of which has been dubbed the “Bridge to Nowhere.” (Durango Herald file)

The Bridge to Nowhere, alternatively known as the Bridge to the Future or the main Grandview Interchange bridge, will be closed for one year as road crews complete the realignment of U.S. Highway 550 south of Durango.

The bridge will be shut down Tuesday and remain closed through summer 2023, said Nancy Shanks, spokeswoman for project.

Road crews must excavate hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of dirt on the south side of the bridge as part of the realignment. In all, contractors plan to excavate about 1.2 million cubic yards of material, Shanks said.

About 900,000 cubic yards – enough to fill 300 Olympic-sized swimming pools, will be reused along other parts of the project, Shanks said. The remaining materials will be used as filler on a specific piece of private property.

“It will actually go to fill some lands on some local properties,” Shanks said.

The yearlong closure is not expected to have a major impact on the traveling public. The bridge receives minimal use, mostly from people who need to access homes and about three businesses – Target Rental, Skyway Auto and Durango Organics – on the south side of U.S. Highway 160.

The Colorado Department of Transportation did not provide total daily average trips on the Bridge to Nowhere. But the agency said there were only 46 traffic movements during a peak hour on Dec. 10, 2019. And during another hour of the day on Sept. 7, 2019, only 24 traffic movements were counted.

By comparison, the realigned highway is expected to carry more than 7,500 vehicles across the bridge per day when it opens in 2023, Shanks said.

The Bridge to Nowhere will be closed through summer 2023 starting on Tuesday. Travelers who want to access homes and businesses on the south side of U.S. Highway 160 will need to use County Road 232, Nancy Shanks, spokeswoman for Lawrence Construction, said on Friday. (Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation)
The realignment of U.S. Highway 550 across the Webb Ranch before connecting with the Grandview Interchange, commonly referred to as the Bridge to Nowhere.

During the yearlong closure, eastbound travelers who want to access homes and businesses on the south side of U.S. Highway 160 can do so with a right-hand turn from Highway 160. But westbound traffic must use County Road 232, Shanks said.

“If travelers are used to using that bridge to access south side businesses and residences, then I guess we certainly thank them for their patience during this,” she said. “Detours are always inconvenient. ... Construction is difficult on many, many people.”

The overall realignment project includes the construction of a new 1-mile, four-lane stretch of Highway 550 to tie in with the Grandview Interchange.

The project also involves widening a 3-mile section of Highway 550 south of County Road 220 to four lanes at the County Road 302 intersection.

CDOT’s project description says the planned connection of Highway 550 to the Grandview interchange will “greatly enhance safety for passenger and commercial vehicles, as well as cyclists.”

The project will also include wildlife underpass crossings and deer fencing that are intended to reduce animal-vehicle collisions, according to CDOT.

Shanks said the project remains on budget and on schedule.

The Bridge to Nowhere got its name as a result of lengthy project delays, leaving a newly built interchange with light traffic. But highway officials as of late have optimistically referred to it as the Bridge to the Future.

cburney@durangoherald.com

This story has been corrected from an earlier version – the bridge is rescheduled to be closed through summer 2023.

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