WESTERN SAN JUANS – The major construction of a roundabout at Society Turn near Telluride will not take place this summer. But the region will still face a barrage of other major road construction projects.
Construction of the Hwy. 145 roundabout at Society Turn was slated to begin this spring, but after bids came in higher than expected, the Colorado Department of Transportation decided to put the project on hold until the spring of 2013.
“We had bids come in just over 30 percent of our budget,” CDOT Resident Engineer Ed Archuleta said in an interview on Tuesday. “We didn’t have the money to award a bid so we are going to re-look at the job and try to reduce the price by reviewing the contract requirements, specifications and methods. We are going to try to get it a little less costly.”
While major construction on the project won’t begin until 2013, Archuleta said his department would put some preliminary roundabout work out to bid this spring for completion by fall. Some of those tasks include relocating utilities and doing some earthwork.
“We hope to get some of the utilities moved this season,” he said. “If we are successful, it could avoid the risk of major delays next season. We are stretching it out. By doing this, we will also avoid any big impacts that may occur during the bike race in August.”
Thousands of cyclists and spectators are expected to flood the region during the Aug. 19-21 USA Pro Cycle Challenge. With major road construction projects occurring on along the race route, along Hwy. 145 and Hwy. 550, dropping the Society Turn roundabout portion is somewhat welcome.
“On our end, it’s a bit of a sigh of relief,” said Telluride Town Manager Greg Clifton. “There will already be a lot of highway construction this summer with the Leopard Creek bridge replacement and a rather large asphalt overlay from Keystone Hill to Lizard Head pass. We wanted to move forward on the roundabout, but frankly, from the Town’s perspective, another year is not going to make any difference.”
Archuleta agreed. “We got all the funding for these projects in one time frame,” Archuleta said. “It was going to be the perfect storm of construction this season.”
Several members of Telluride Town Council expressed concern about the roundabout delay at their meeting on Tuesday, but those concerns focused mostly on the cost of the project and potential cost increases as a result.
The roundabout is expected to cost $2.5-$3 million, approximately $900,000 more than the price of installing a traffic signal. The difference in cost will be shared by local governments, with the Town of Telluride, Town of Mountain Village and San Miguel County contributing $675,000, $200,000 $25,000, respectively. Clifton assured members of council on Tuesday that if the price of the roundabout goes up for some reason, it is expected that CDOT will pick up the increase.
As for the other road construction projects planned for the region, Archuleta said the Leopard Creek bridge replacement project below Placerville is going out to bid on March 1 with a planned start date of May 1. A temporary detour on the upstream side of the old bridge will be constructed for traffic while crews replace the old narrow bridge with a new bridge wide enough to accommodate two lanes of traffic and a turn lane for Norwood-bound traffic. The project will also include the removal of a chunk of the rock wall directly across from the intersection to make room for an additional turn lane. This, along with the removal of the decrepit one-story motel building, will make for safer turning at the intersection, said Archuleta.
The larger, two-story hotel structure at the intersection directly adjacent to the current Leopard Creek bridge will remain standing.
“It’s going to take us pretty much the full season to get that intersection’s improvements done,” Archuleta said. “We are working with [Colorado Parks and Wildlife] on the project because Leopard Creek is a cutthroat and brown trout habitat. We are trying to get it done in a way to avoid any impacts to those fisheries.”
While no one is excited about a summer’s worth of construction traffic, San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes said the Leopard Creek bridge improvements have been a long time coming.
“When the economic downturn hit, this project was first in line and then it got pulled,” Goodtimes said. “We have been in line to get this project done for six or seven years. It is a dangerous intersection and we need to get the work done.”
In Ridgway, replacement of the Uncompahgre River bridge is going out to bid this week and is expected to take most of the summer to complete. Between Telluride and Lizard Head Pass, Archuleta hopes crews can begin Hwy. 145 paving work from Society Turn to Lizard Head Pass Summit in April, assuming the weather cooperates. Archuleta expects the major portion of that project to be completed prior to the arrival of the USA Pro Cycle Challenge in late August.
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