Expected to start construction in 2021
By Katherine Nettles
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has decided to delay for at least a year an extensive roadway project on Highway 50 between Gunnison and Montrose through Little Blue Canyon.
The project, originally scheduled to begin in the spring of 2020, is expected to cause scheduled daytime closures, overnight closures and limited access to the canyon beyond local traffic for several months. Jason Smith, program engineer for Region 3 West of CDOT, wrote in an e-mail to the Crested Butte News that timing of federal funds had much do with the delay.
“The reason for the delay is the time it is taking to acquire the federal funding authorization for the FLAP [Federal Lands Access Program] grant and then advertising the project to get a contractor started by early spring. In discussions with Central Federal Lands, they were not confident about when the funding would be given to them, which could cause the project to start later in the summer and completely change the phasing of the work and potentially push the project into three summers,” wrote Smith.
Smith continued, “So we made the hard decision to delay the project for a year to allow time to get the federal funding in the project and get a contract awarded so work could start in the spring to give us a full first season to work and hopefully overall minimize the duration of the project.”
The Little Blue Canyon project will make extensive safety improvements within Little Blue Canyon on Highway 50. The project will widen shoulders, improve the guardrail and create better sight distances along a three-mile section, requiring extensive rock blasting along the canyon walls. The area has become a priority for CDOT due to several accidents there in recent years, including fatalities.