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Why not reopen Wilson Gulch exit off U.S. Highway 160?

There will be roundabouts on either side of the “Bridge to the Future” when the Grandview interchange is fully functional, possibly by Thanksgiving if all goes perfectly. One roundabout is already in place, and one is still under construction, as seen Aug. 10. (Action Line)

Dear Action Line: Why is the eastbound exit ramp to Wilson Gulch Drive still closed? I like to get gas at the new Maverik station. It appears all that needs to be done is a final grading and new concrete poured. It’s inconvenient and hazardous for folks to make a left turn at Davidson Creek Road; or you can go all the way up to Three Springs Boulevard and double back. What is CDOT waiting for? – Ed

That Davidson Creek turn, which takes nerves of steel as you’re heading east up U.S. Highway 160 in Grandview, has become very popular. And hairy. As you wait patiently in the middle lane, cars and semis zip by within a foot or two at 60 mph-plus on either side. Nerve-racking, yet somehow exhilarating. Action Line finds that closing the eyes helps a lot. Hey, just kidding!

Well, the anticipation builds for the opening of the Bridge to Nowhere, which the Colorado Department of Transportation has redubbed the Bridge to the Future. OK, that’s fair. It’s a big change from the Farmington Hill route, and it’s going to be VERY interesting to see how it all shakes down.

CDOT is confident it will work just fine. Action Line sees all sorts of potential issues, such as drivers with little roundabout experience freaking out, vehicles lined up while waiting for a break in traffic and snow/ice causing winter-type issues. Keep those fingers crossed.

CDOT has said the Wilson Gulch exit off U.S. 160 will be closed at least through October, meaning it could open in early November. Emphasize “could.” For this question Action Line’s source was Nancy Shanks, former full-time CDOT spokeswoman and Action Line regular who is the Grandview interchange’s “contracted public information manager” for CDOT. Also a Snowdown Follies star, we should add. She’s in touch with the project team, and the local CDOT office.

“Yes, this is still correct,” Shanks said. “The ramp was closed last year due to excessive settling since its construction in 2014. Lawrence Construction is replacing the ramp approach, removing the exceptional jump enjoyed by motocross racers and RV haulers in the area.”

When all is said and done, “Motorists attempting to gas up at the new Maverik station will no longer have to endure the 2.5-mile detour through the light at Three Springs Boulevard. Ya see? Locals DO miss this interchange!”

Action Line took advantage of the opportunity to get answers to some other questions.

For instance, Action Line is finding it nearly impossible to convince people (Mrs. Action Line, for one) that there will be roundabouts on both sides of the bridge that crosses Highway 160. In other words, when you’re coming from New Mexico on Highway 550 to the interchange, you will come to a roundabout on the south side of the bridge – and then another on the north side, assuming you're heading west (or to the Maverik).

“Still true!” Shanks said. “From a bird’s-eye view, the Bridge to the Future will be the bar in a set of free weights (the roundabouts on either side). Or perhaps, it’s the neck connecting the two ampules of an hourglass, in which the sand flows north. Goodbye, Farmington Hill!”

So when is this final part of the decadeslong Grandview interchange project scheduled to open up? (Barring unforeseen delays, like weird weather, asteroids, etc.) For this question, CDOT Project Director David Valentinelli was the source.

CDOT’s schedule is to have the final alignment open by summer 2024. “However, we are actively working toward a traffic switch onto the new alignment by Thanksgiving,” he said.

He cautioned that a lot of steps and elements and contractors have to fall into place just right to make this happen.

“Due to the interconnectivity of many of the remaining activities, one slippage can result in a domino effect, and our effort reverts to the float built into our schedule that acknowledges this potential slippage,” Valentinelli said. “Did we mention havoc-wreaking weather?”

After three-plus years of work, the project team is also anxious to have the job completed.

“We are sure that you all are anxious to feel some fresh pavement under your wheels, four travel lanes and a fully functional interchange. We are,” Valentinelli said. “Plan for the summer of 2024 and, who knows, we may just surprise you a little earlier.”

Here’s where the previously elusive Peak Twelve appears to be. Action Line used a U.S. Geological Survey map combined with some extremely nifty Photoshop work to highlight the peak. (Action Line illustration)
Peak Twelve found?

Peak Twelve appeared to be missing when Action Line wrote Aug. 13 about the 16 numbered peaks in the Weminuche Wilderness. Even the U.S. Geological Survey folks were miffed.

But we believe it has been found.

Reader Mark Ott uses the peak-bagging and -identifying website listsofjohn.com for information about various mountains, and quickly found Peak Twelve identified on that site. Where listsofjohn.com got its information is a mystery Action Line won’t tackle, but also won’t dispute.

Peak Twelve lies in the Needle Mountains at the head of Ruby Creek basin, and is 13,119 feet above sea level. It’s on a ridge south of Monitor Peak (13,695 feet) and north of North Eolus (14,039 feet). That puts it roughly between Peak Thirteen to the north and Peak Eleven to the east.

It all adds up.

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. True story: The Bridge to Nowhere has been around since George W. Bush was president.

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