Contract awarded for Highway 131 improvements

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— Connell Resources has been awarded a $5.6 million contract to extend improvements on Colorado Highway 131 another 3 miles past "Catamount Corner," south of Steamboat Springs.

Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said work will take place next summer and could begin as soon as mid-April. With favorable construction weather, the project could be wrapped up by November, she said.

"We call this a minor widening project," Shanks said. "What you'll see out there are 12-foot traffic lanes, which is pretty much what's there now, plus 8-foot paved shoulders, bringing it up to federal safety standards. It should be good news for cyclists."

The news is mixed for Stagecoach residents who commute to work in Steamboat. Motorists could experience waits of 20 to 30 minutes next summer because of the construction zones, Shanks said. In the long run, however, motorists headed toward Stagecoach will enjoy right- and left-hand turn lanes from Colo. 131 onto Routt County Road 14. Drivers making a right turn from C.R. 14 onto Colo. 131 toward Steamboat will have an acceleration lane.

The first section of similar improvements to Colo. 131 was completed in 2001, Shanks said. That project began at U.S. Highway 40 and Colo. 131 and proceeded south over the Yampa River Bridge. The work stopped at Colo. 131 and C.R. 18, which leads to the Lake Catamount development and Pleasant Valley.

Next summer's work will include turn lanes at C.R. 14E just beyond the Catamount Curve. The curve will be reengineered to include steeper banking.

That, combined with more gradual embankments, will eliminate the need for guardrails along the curve, Shanks said.

Shanks said Connell's contract does not represent the entire cost of the project.

However, Routt County commissioners announced this week that they had received an award from CDOT for county planning policies that potentially saved millions of dollars in the procurement of right-of-ways for the highway-widening project.

The commissioners credited county planner Chris Brookshire for smooth implementation of the county's subdivision exemption process.

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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