Construction on 131 almost complete

— A summer's worth of road work and delays on Colorado 131 should wind down next week, just in time to relieve stress on county roads.

Road crews on the northern four miles of the state highway are working from dusk to dawn to finish, said Van Pilaud, Colorado Department of Transportation project engineer.

"By the middle part of next week, we should have the top layer done," Pilaud said.

By the end of next week, driving delays should be at a minimum. Crews could remain at the site until the first of November, finishing seeding and mulching of displaced areas, he said.

Crews from Connell Resources Inc. are repaving and widening the first four miles of the north end of Colorado 131. Because of the work, there have been traffic delays, usually in three spots of the road.

The reconstruction on the four-mile stretch is phase one of a six-year, $17 million project to replace and widen most of Colorado 131 between Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek.

"All of the paving (for phase one) is going to be finished this year," said Tony Connell, owner of Connell Resources.

Connell won the bid to do the four-mile stretch of road last year. Crews were slowed down when they ran into some problems with the stability of the subsurface of the road early in the summer. But the problems were solved and the work should be completed this year, Connell said.

The end of the construction and traffic delays on the state highway will relieve the traffic problems that sprung up on surrounding county roads from motorist creating their own detours, Routt County Road and Bridge Director Paul Draper said.

"They are rough and dusty," he said.

County Road 20 may be taking the brunt of the detoured traffic. The road runs from U.S. 40 at the base of Rabbit Ears Pass to about three miles down Colorado 131, bypassing most of the delays.

Draper said the county estimated 1,200 trips a day on County Road 20 this summer.

Though there aren't definite numbers on traffic counts in the past, Draper said the use has certainly doubled and possibly tripled in 2001.

County Road 14 also had a dramatic increase in traffic.

Draper said the increased traffic on county roads caused large amounts of dust in the air.

Pat Evangelatos, who lives on County Road 20, said the dust on the road made for a tough summer.

"It's very upsetting. It really affected our quality of life," she said. "The dust is absolutely unbearable."

Evangelatos said a cloud of dust from the increased traffic hung over the area all summer and the trees and plant life were covered with the road dirt.

Large trucks from the construction project used the county roads and Evangelatos thought they were a large part of the dust problem. However, the state supervisor for the project didn't water the roads to keep the dust down, she said.Pilaud said Connell trucks do use the county roads. He said he thought it was OK to use the detours because they are public roads. He added that the trucks are a small percentage of the vehicles taking the detours.

However, Pilaud said he is orchestrating an effort in which the Colorado Department of Transportation will pay to put magnesium chloride, a dust control agent, on the road using Connell water trucks on Oct. 9.

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