OURAY COUNTY – The Colorado Department of Transportation will begin work on Monday, Aug. 15, on a section of US Hwy 550 between Ridgway and Colona. The project will construct two new southbound lanes between milepoints 115.5 and 117, about 12 miles north of Ridgway to create a four-lane stretch of highway for safer passing.
Motorists, who will encounter 45 mph, single-lane alternating traffic through the work zone, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., are urged to drive with caution and maintain a safe following distance.
Plans are for the project to be suspended December through February, and for an August 2012 completion.
“The addition of passing lanes will greatly increase safety along this well-traveled stretch,” said State Transportation Commissioner Doug Aden, who represents Northwestern Colorado. “US 550 is a vital north-south corridor serving the Western Slope – for commuters, tourists and commercial transportation. Improving safety and mobility on this stretch is a high priority.”
Other safety improvements on the project include eight-foot-high wildlife fencing, wildlife escape ramps (one-way earthen ramps adjacent to the fence whereby animals can exit the highway right of way), a dynamic wildlife detection warning system, “deer” guards at primary accesses, improved drainage and more. The wildlife features include a buried cable detection system first installed on US Hwy 160 east of Durango in 2009, and is, according to a CDOT statement, “achieving marked success to date,” with an underground cable that detects changes in the earth's electromagnetic field. triggered by the presence of large ungulates crossing the cable system, causing it to transmit information to a sensor module that will activate electronic signs to warn motorists of wildlife in the roadway’s vicinity. This system will be placed at each end of the wildlife fencing to reduce the potential for wildlife-vehicle collisions in those areas. “The most successful wildlife crash measure that has been proven to work in highway settings is wildlife fencing,” said CDOT Traffic and Safety Engineer Mike McVaugh said. “The electronic detection system adds a benefit to large wildlife in areas where there are gaps in fencing to allow normal migration to occur. Complete wildlife fencing is not a viable option where there are known migration routes.”
This project, awarded to United Companies of Grand Junction for $7 million, will receive $4.5 million from Funding Advancements for Surface Treatment and Economic Recovery, established by the Colorado General Assembly to fund the repair of Colorado’s structurally deficient bridges and make safety improvements to Colorado’s key corridors.
For updated information, call 511 or visit www.dot.state.co.us/TravelInfo/currentcond/ or www.coloradodot.info.