Steamboat Springs Drivers traveling along a four-mile section of Colorado 131 can expect a wider and smoother road with no more construction delays starting tonight.
Construction along these four miles, which lie between the intersection of U.S. 40 and the Yampa River Bridge, was the first phase of a road improvement project along Colo. 131 that could eventually reach to Oak Creek.
The initial phase began last spring and was almost entirely finished last fall, project coordinators said. One goal was to finish the work before winter so that drivers would have a paved surface to drive on during the snowy months.
"We felt it was important to the community and the winter safety of the traveling public to have a completed widening before winter," said Tony Connell, the vice president for Connell Resources Inc., which was the contractor for the project.
Connell also said challenges during construction, such as unexpected soil conditions and the poor state of the old roadbed, could have delayed the project greatly but did not.
All work stopped during the winter, but during the past few days, minor roadwork and repainting has taken place. This final work has not caused major traffic delays and should be completed tonight, said Van Pilaud, the Colorado Department of Transportation's Project Engineer.
The traffic delays that could continue through today will not be as long as the 10- to 15-minute delays drivers frequently experienced after last spring and summer, Pilaud said.
Last year, Pilaud said residents often took alternate routes to avoid the highway.
But despite the traffic delays, residents have been pleased with the roadwork, Pilaud said.
"Virtually all of the responses I'm aware of have been positive responses to the improvements we've made so far," Pilaud said. "The driving public through this valley were very cooperative and very understanding for what we were trying to do."
The next phase of the construction would involve improving an eight-mile stretch of Colo. 131 from the Yampa River Bridge south toward Oak Creek. Construction during this phase could cause 30-minute delays and could take more than a year to complete, Pilaud said.
But the start of this next phase depends on funding.
Construction could begin as early as spring of 2003, but budget constraints could easily delay this project and others, Pilaud said.
"It's really key, the funding," Pilaud said.