TELLURIDE – Williams Construction has begun work on the $1.2 million Lawson Hill underpass south of the intersection of Highway 145 and Society Drive that will facilitate bike and pedestrian traffic between the Town of Telluride and the Lawson Hill subdivision.
When completed, the Lawson Hill Underpass will create a safe passage across Highway 145 into Lawson Hill and down to the 25-mile Galloping Goose Trail, which follows the historic route of the railroad through the region.
San Miguel County officials have known that “this was a situation that needed to be rectified” since the early days of Lawson Hill, says Kari Distefano, of the county’s Open Space and Recreation Department.
An alternative solution was briefly considered that would have utilized existing culverts, Distefano says, but abandoned largely because there was a good chance that “we would lose it just like we lose the river park trail in the spring,” due to flooding.
Distefano, who lives in Lawson Hill, says she is especially pleased that the underpass will make it possible for children to safely to and from town beneath one of San Miguel County’s most perilous intersections.
Although there has been just one serious vehicle-bike accident at the crossing since Lawson Hill came online, that’s “by the grace of God,” says Distefano, who says she gets “heartburn” whenever she sees a child bike or walk across the highway.
“The reality,” she says, “is that I will not let my kids ride to school by themselves” until the underpass is installed.
She’s not the only person who worries about safety at the busy intersection; in the past, Distefano says, when “we encourage people to use the bike path as a route into Telluride,” they have cited “safety as a reason why they don’t use it.
“The combination of heavy highway traffic, poor visibility and the numbers of bicyclists using the trail was a dangerous one,” Distefano said.
“This project will increase safety for everyone, while connecting two portions of the paved bike path for the benefit of recreational riders and bike commuters” and pedestrians alike.
Construction is expected to wrap up at the end of August; until then, drivers can expect some delay when traveling through the construction site, although two lanes will remain open for vehicular traffic throughout construction.
The intersection of Highway 145 and Society Drive – the major route for commuters traveling to and from the Lawson Hill subdivision, Mountain Village, Ophir and Rico areas – is traversed by more than 9,000 drivers a day.
The project has received $140,000 in grants from both the Department of Local Affairs and the Colorado Department of Transportation, as well as $300,000 from Great Outdoors Colorado and $10,000 from the Town of Telluride. The bid from Williams “came in at just under $800,000,” she says, “just for construction.” There will be associated costs for design, engineering and materials testing.
Construction schedules and more information are available at the county’s website, www.sanmiguelcounty.org.