Companies gear up for Colo. 131 work

4-mile reconstruction project on table

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— The Colorado Department of Transportation will open bids on Thursday to reconstruct a four-mile section of Colorado 131 and work could start by the end of the month. However, major delays on the state highway south of Steamboat Springs won't happen until next summer.

Officials will look at the bids from numerous companies to do the work. After the lowest bid is picked, CDOT and the company have 20 days to get contracts signed and the deal finalized.

Though all the bids are sealed, CDOT project engineer Van Pilaud knows that some of the companies want to start work this fall.

That's true for Connell Resources; the company already is bidding out subcontracting work for the project in case it gets the CDOT job.

"Whoever gets it is probably going to get started this month," said Bob Franks of Connell Resources.

The plan for most of the companies is to get a portion of the work done before the snow falls, CDOT resident engineer Glen Violette said. But anything is possible.

"With a year like we're having this year, I wouldn't want to make any guesses on the weather," he said.

But some companies may propose to hold off until the spring to get started, so nothing is certain, Violette added.

No matter when work begins, one thing is for sure for drivers:

"The real headaches won't start until next summer," Pilaud said.

Eventually, drivers on three sections in the four miles will be sitting through delays up to 10 minutes long.

That's because crews will need to tear out the existing road and replace it, causing only one lane of traffic to be open in those stretches. Motorists also will drive behind slow-moving, heavy equipment in that area.

"It's going to take a lot of patience by a lot of people," Pilaud said. "We will try to minimize the length of the construction zones and the time delays, but we're looking at 10 minutes at each zone."

That means in a worst-case scenario, drivers could be sitting in traffic for up to a half-hour.

Patience may be the key word for driving on Colo. 131, not just next summer, but for the next six years.

"This is the first construction project in the corridor improvement plan," Pilaud said.

The four-mile stretch of Colo. 131 is the first section of a six-year, $17 million project to replace and widen the road between Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek.

Most of the highway needs to be completely replaced because the center line is sliding to the east, Pilaud said. But there are sections where wider shoulders will be added and the surface just paved over.

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