OURAY – Drivers who regularly use Red Mountain Pass can expect major road construction starting this August when the Colorado Department of Transportation will begin a $5.7 million Bear Creek Bridge replacement project on U.S. Hwy. 550 south of Ouray.
Phase I of the project is expected to begin on Aug. 1 and end approximately Nov. 1, CDOT Region 5 Resident Engineer Ed Archuleta told the Ouray County Commissioners on Monday.
“The main thing we want to get done this season is rock bolting,” Archuleta said. “We need to get it done in warm weather. This will be done with a crane and a basket lowered over the side to drill into the rock. This work will drive night closures this season.”
According to the traffic control plan for this phase, one lane of traffic flow must be maintained during daylight working hours with two lanes of unobstructed traffic being restored during non-working hours. Traffic delays during working hours is not to last longer than 20 minutes, with delays of up to one hour being allowed by CDOT during rock blasting exercises.
There will be a maximum of 15 overnight road closures allowed between Sunday through Thursday nights, with no overnight closures allowed during Labor Day weekend. During this first phase of construction, crews will construct temporary lane widening that will be used during Phase II of the project.
From Nov. 1 to April 1, 2011, there will be no construction during the mandatory winter shut down period. Phase II of the project will then begin with similar traffic delays and overnight closures until Nov. 1, 2011 when the project is expected to be complete. During this time, crews will have to close the highway for one 48-hour period so the bridge can be safely retrofitted and modified to accommodate bridge construction.
“The contractor is going to have to be efficient during this closure,” Archuleta said. “In Phase II, they will also start construction on an overlook structure, which will be a steel observation deck.”
Crews will be working on the Bear Creek parking area but won’t be increasing the parking area exactly, but rather, widening it out with a new sidewalk to the overlook area to the south and southwest. He said three interpretative signs will be erected there.
“Hopefully all of this will keep people from walking across the bridge,” he said.
To keep the traveling public abreast of road closure times and traffic delays, Archuleta said there will be a number of electronic signs used to relay information in Ouray County and on the south side of Red Mountain Pass. CDOT will also issue press releases in other media outlets.