Colo. 131 road work on horizon

Commuters can expect short delays this month

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— Commuters driving on Colorado 131 can expect travel delays in the coming weeks because of a reconstruction project planned on 4 miles of the highway.

Signs telling motorists about the coming work are expected to go up next week.

The reconstruction project is on the schedule for the first 4 miles of the north end of Colo. 131. Crews will widen the road and rebuild the bridge over the Yampa River by the Catamount turnoff, Colorado Department of Transportation Project Engineer Van Pilaud said.

Workers will begin to bring materials to that stretch of road Monday. By Wednesday, Pilaud's site office should be in place alongside the highway.

"Then it progressively gets more interesting as the summer goes along," he said.

Delays are scheduled to begin on April 23 when crews from Connell Resources Inc., the company that won the bid last year to do the job, will start laying pipe across the road.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is allowed to have three delay zones in the 4-mile stretch, where there will be one lane of traffic. Traffic could be delayed in each zone by up to 10 minutes, potentially tacking on an extra half-hour of travel time by mid-summer.

Multiple delays probably won't happen until after June 19, after the Ride to Rockies bicycle tour comes through. Then, crews will begin pulling up the old pavement and rebuilding the road.

Routt County Road and Bridge Director Paul Draper said there won't be any official detours around the delays because one lane of traffic will stay open the whole time. However, he expects residents to find their own detours on county roads.

"The local people will figure it out pretty quickly," he said.

That means more traffic on county roads in the south valley. County Road 14 and C.R. 20 are expected to see the biggest increases in traffic, Draper said.

To prepare for the extra vehicles, Draper said dust control efforts will be stepped up, more speed limit signs will be added and the sheriff's office will be asked to increase patrol on the roads.

By the end of August, officials are expecting to unveil the new section of highway and things will get back to normal.

"We are hoping that we can be finished by Labor Day," Pilaud said.

The reconstruction on the 4-mile stretch is part of a six-year, $17 million project to replace and widen most of the state highway between Steamboat and Oak Creek.

The finished product will be a new, 800-meter wide road. Most of Colo. 131 between Steamboat and Oak Creek 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.

Pilaud said the next stretch of road reconstruction is in the design phase and he doesn't expect work to start there until the summer of 2003.

"I do not anticipate a construction job next summer," he said.

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