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Sections of gas pipeline to be replaced along Highway 135 near north bridge

“It’s not dangerous.”

By Toni Todd

If you’ve traveled Highway 135 recently, you’ve likely noticed men in reflective vests, a red drilling truck and a gaggle of support vehicles at different spots on the side of the road. “We are making preparations to replace sections of the four-inch gas pipeline that runs from Gunnison to Crested Butte,” say Xcel Energy’s contract agent Ken Wiley. “It’s not dangerous, but it needs to be replaced.”

The pipeline, says Wiley, was laid along the route in the early 1990s. He explained that the project, overseen by the Federal Department of Transportation, is mandated by the Federal Gas Pipeline Integrity Management Program and was created to “ensure these high-pressure gas pipelines remain safe.”

The work is pre-emptive, Wiley explains. Excel is required by law to inspect and replace sections of pipeline before they become worrisome.

A section of pipeline was replaced at Almont in September, causing some delays in traffic passing through that area.

Wiley says they’ll replace the section of pipeline that goes under the Gunnison River, near the boat ramp and bridge across from Garlic Mike’s. To do that, they’ll bore horizontally under the river, some 20 feet below the riverbed.

This fall, Wiley’s crew is taking soil samples and evaluating the sections in need of replacement. The excavation and replacement work itself will occur next spring. Wiley says they hope to complete the work before the busy summer traffic season begins. Even so, the work may cause some delays at various points along Highway 135 between late March and early May.

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