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North College Drive construction to bring major improvements, disruptions

Crews aim to finish project before winter
Construction crews work Friday on North College Drive. Work includes improvements to water and sewer infrastructure, widening sidewalks and narrowing lanes. Work is expected to be completed this fall. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The years-delayed reconstruction of North College Drive in Durango finally began last week. It will result in major improvements to the heavily traveled road, but it comes with the trade-off of congested traffic in the meantime.

North College Drive links Florida Road to Goeglein Gulch Road and East College Drive. It and other construction projects have caused considerable traffic congestion already.

City spokesman Tom Sluis said Durango City Hall has received calls from residents wondering what’s up with the construction and clogged traffic, which coincides with another construction project on county roads 250 and 251 (East Animas Road and the northern extension of 32nd Street) just north of North College Drive.

On Wednesday, orange construction cones laid out travel lanes along North College Drive. A construction roadblock on County Road 251 caused morning commuters to queue up on Holly Avenue just west of J. Bo’s Pizza and Rib Co., waiting for their opportunity to merge or turn left onto Florida Road.

A news release issued by the city says construction crews aim to finish the reconstruction of North College Drive before snowfall later this year. But traffic control will change throughout the project.

Capital Improvement Project Manager Justin Blair said he’d like have the project completed before Thanksgiving.

Construction on North College Drive that started last week will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays this summer and fall, with crews aiming to complete the project before winter. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

Drivers can expect alternating, one-way travel lanes on North College Drive directed by construction workers for the duration of construction. Construction is scheduled to take place between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays until completion.

“Plan for delays, anticipate delays, carpool, use other forms of transit,” Blair said.

He said the city is considering more formal messaging about traffic delays and how to time construction with goings-on in town. If parts of construction can be delayed in May when school lets out, for example, that could be one option to alleviate traffic stacking.

The project is the first of three phases of a $5.4 million construction effort between Richard Drive and Aquarius Place and includes major improvements along North College Drive, the release says. College Drive is a major arterial road connecting northeast and south Durango.

It consists of the installation of traffic-calming features such as narrowed travel lanes, a road median, improvements for street drainage and water line maintenance, and bike lanes, sidewalks and an improved bus stop, according to the city of Durango’s 2023-27 capital improvement plan.

The capital improvement plan says the North College Drive improvements cost about $2.2 million.

The plan says some landscaping will take place, but major improvements include traffic calming, drainage, utilities and multimodal infrastructure.

Blair said water system improvements must be made before the project really kicks off later this month.

“Our general plan is to focus on water system improvements first, and then complete sanitary sewer and stormwater system improvements next,” he said in the release. “Once the underground components of the project are constructed, the last step will be repaving and replacing curb and gutter, sidewalk.”

Blair said crews are making small repairs to “support the larger and more comprehensive work that’s forthcoming.”

Water and sewer mains must be rehabilitated along with repairs to insufficient street drainage, according to the capital improvement plan. Combined rain gardens and curb bulb-outs are also planned.

Bulb-outs will be installed at intersections along North College Drive. The road and travel lanes will be narrowed, a common practice for encouraging slower travel speeds, and a 30-feet-long median will be installed.

The plan says sidewalks will be widened and crosswalks will be improved. A 10-foot shared multiuse trail is planned for some locations along North College Drive in addition to dedicated bike lanes and improvements to the transit stop adjacent to the 1304 Apartments at the intersection of North College Drive and Florida Road.

“It’s always tough to come in and (say), ‘We’re gonna be disturbing your way of life for the next year,” Blair said. “It’s always a tough message to deliver.”

He was expecting area residents to be fuming, but people living on and near North College Drive proved him wrong with how receptive they’ve been, he said.

The North College Drive reconstruction project was originally planned to begin in 2022. But high contractor bids made it difficult for the city to get it and other projects off the ground that spring and summer.

At the time, contractors told the city supply chain issues, labor shortages, and fuel and other cost increases contributed to higher-than-expected bids.

Later that summer, Keith Dougherty, city civil engineer, said the city plans to remove speed humps located on North College Drive and replace them will the traffic-calming infrastructure such as narrowed roads and medians in the road.

Residents had mixed thoughts about the effectiveness of the speed humps.


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