Yellowjacket Pass due to be lowered |

Yellowjacket Pass due to be lowered

— Improvements to a stretch of Routt County Road 14, one of the most heavily traveled roads in the county road system, are tentatively set to begin Sept. 1.

Road and Bridge director Janet Hruby said the first stages of the two-year, $1.5 million project includes 2 inches of fresh asphalt along 4 miles of the road beginning at Colorado Highway 131 and continuing south to Hibbert Lane, just below the top of Yellowjacket Pass on the way to Stagecoach.

When work resumes in 2015 another seven-10ths of a mile of road will be re-paved to Henderson Park Road on the north side of Yellowjacket, but not until the elevation of 600 feet of roadway is lowered to improve vehicular sight lines at the top of the pass.

Elam Construction is the private contractor for the asphalt work.

"This road is the second highest traveled county road (to Routt County Road 129/Elk River Road) and serves as a commuter connector, school bus route, local access and state park/public lands access. Additionally, it is an alternate route to Colorado Highway 131," Hruby wrote in a press release.

Steamboat residents enjoy Stagecoach Lake as the state park in their backyard for fishing and boating in summer, but the heaviest traffic on C.R. 14 may come from the bedroom community of Stagecoach with people commuting to and from work in Steamboat.

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"The narrow width, steep-side slopes and limited sight distances create challenging conditions during winter when the lanes are not clearly visible, and throughout the year, when motorists, bicyclists,= and agricultural equipment vie for the same limited roadway space," Hruby added.

Routt County has had bigger plans for C.R. 14 in the recent past. The county unsuccessfully applied for federal stimulus grants to completely re-build the road and straighten a series of sharp curves near the north end of the stretch of road where it follows private property section lines.

Toward that end, the county spent $1.2 million in 2012 on obtaining easements from private landowners to make the project "shovel ready" and increase the chances of landing a grant for what would have been about a $13 million project.

However, more heavily traveled commuter roads in more populous areas claimed the project dollars.

Now, Hruby says, while Routt County can't fund the $13 million project and still take care of the other 160 miles of roads in its system, it's time to invest in modernizing the busy stretch of C.R. 14 on a smaller scale.

This fall's work will include installing culverts to improve drainage and adding short stretches of 1- to 2-foot shoulders where they are most needed.

In places, where there are wheel ruts in the existing asphalt, or there is a need to re-establish the crown of the road, a leveling course will be put down prior to the addition of the fresh asphalt.

C.R. 14 is difficult to maintain, Hruby said, because it was originally a two-track road built on native soils. When it finally received its first pavement, it was applied without a layer of coarse gravel road base to support it.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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