Highway 9 construction project nears completion | SteamboatToday.com

Highway 9 construction project nears completion

A deer uses a new wildlife overpass to safely get across Highway 9 south of Kremmling. State Transportation Chairwoman Kathy Connell said the project has greatly reduced the number of animal deaths and vehicle-versus-wildlife accidents on the stretch of highway.

State Transportation Commission Chairwoman Kathy Connell is so proud to see moose, bears, elk and deer using a new wildlife overpass to cross Colorado Highway 9, she keeps framed photographs of the safe crossings in her office.

"I love wildlife, and I love a sense of, 'Hey, we did something, and it was really successful,'" Connell said Friday. "There were so many naysayers who said the wildlife will never use these. To see it work so quickly and have an impact, and then to preserve a historical walking path and waterway for the animals, is thrilling."

She also is quick to share the statistics that have come from the wildlife safety project.

"The animal strikes on that part of the highway (between Silverthorne and Kremmling) have gone down 90 percent since these fences went in," she said. "We're saving the lives of people. We're saving property damage, and we're saving animals."

Drivers in Northwest Colorado can also breathe a sigh of relief now that the major construction project, which started in spring 2015, is nearing the finish line.

Colorado Department of Transportation officials reported this week the project is months ahead of schedule.

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Paving operations are complete, and crews now only have to put the finishing touches on the wildlife structures and fencing.

Crews will also perform landscaping work in the coming weeks.

"They are substantially complete right now," Connell said. "What they're working on is things like balancing the fencing and stuff off the road. It should be completed in the next 30 days."

Connell said drivers should encounter no more long delays in the cone zone, but there could still be some shorter delays if a piece of construction equipment or vehicle needs to cross the highway.

The $39.2 million safety project added wildlife overpasses and underpasses, fencing, wider shoulders and more guardrails on an 11-mile stretch of Colo. 9 between Silverthorne and Kremmling.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10