Colo. 131 could be wider by next fall

— Cars stopped along Colorado Highway 131 between Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek soon could be a familiar site, but one associated with long-awaited benefits.

The second phase of a highway reconstruction project to build a wider, safer road between the two areas could begin as early as next summer, Colorado Department of Transportation officials said.

In the first phase of the project, four miles at the north end of the highway, starting at its intersection with U.S. Highway 40, were reconstructed.

In the second phase, the next four miles -- which run from mile marker 64.5 to mile marker 60.5 -- will be reconstructed. The project will cost about $6 million and the funds already have been allocated.

Now, CDOT is acquiring rights of way needed for the reconstruction. The highway construction design is finished, so if all necessary rights of way are acquired, the project would go out to bid by January or February 2005, said Van Pilaud, resident engineer for CDOT.

On that schedule, work would begin next summer and finish by the time snow falls in 2005.

The reconstruction will make this section of the highway suitable for vehicles traveling at 65 mph. That means adding an 8-foot paved shoulder, in addition to the existing 12-foot lanes, to give drivers an opportunity to recover before going off the road if their car swerves. Guard rails also will be removed because of the shoulder, Pilaud said.

The reconstruction also includes some proposed highway realignment, intersection safety improvements at Routt County Road 14, and repaving.

During construction, Pilaud said residents can expect delays similar to those experienced in the first reconstruction period. One lane will be kept open and flaggers will control traffic flow.

The goal is to reconstruct the entire highway from Steamboat Springs to Oak Creek. When and whether that happens depends on funding from the state, which is dealing with shortfalls that impact road projects, Pilaud said.

The reconstruction is a priority for the Northwest Colorado Transportation Planning Region.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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