Little Blue Creek Canyon project extended additional nine months

Citing Glenwood Canyon closures last year 

[  By Katherine Nettles  ]

The highway improvement project along US Highway 50 between Gunnison and Montrose that has created full and partial road closures for almost two years along Little Blue Creek Canyon has been extended until next summer. The announcement came after a stakeholder meeting last month and authorities are expecting the project to be completed in July 2023 instead of the originally scheduled November 2022. The four-mile project and associated closures are expected to shut down in late fall again once winter weather begins and to resume in the spring.

“Because of extended I-70 Glenwood Canyon closures in the summer of 2021, the project was delayed, and work will now extend into summer 2023,” according to a press release issued on July 22. Construction began in 2020 and “was anticipated to last two years.”

Traffic impacts will continue to include alternating one-way lane daytime closures Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., full roadway closures occurring through the night Monday through Thursday from 7:30 p.m. through 6:30 a.m. and full roadway openings with two-way traffic on weekends from 7:30 p.m. on Friday through Monday at 6:30 a.m. Estimated delay times during roadway opening windows are between 35 minutes to one hour.

“Improvements are focused on safety on the important rural highway, including realignment and widening U.S. 50 to two 12-foot travel lanes with two 4-foot wide paved shoulders. This work is essential to improve safety for motorists traveling through Little Blue Creek Canyon, which currently has narrow lanes and sharp turns,” according to the Federal Highway Administration.

“Lengthy closures are required in order to complete the project, as crews must conduct rock blasting and removal. ACC will continue to work in partnership with Federal Highway Administration, Central Federal Lands Highway Division (FHWA-CFLHD) and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to minimize impacts on local communities as much as possible.”

Current project work includes roadway excavation and embankment work; rock wall installation; wildlife and snow fence installation; and cross culvert work being done mostly at night.

The $40 million project is being conducted through a partnership with the FHWA and CDOT. The Colorado Federal Lands Access Program is providing a $20 million grant and CDOT is providing the matching $20 million. Communications specialist for the project, Mavis Fitzgerald of Project Resource Studio, said the delays have not caused any project cost increase at this point. 

The project is also in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. Following recent stakeholder meetings, Fitzgerald reported that more than 50 people attended. Aside from some technical difficulties, she said the main concern expressed was from hauler/truckers who have not been able to bring oversized loads through the project zone. “We cannot accommodate oversized loads and they are complaining about it (for the duration of the project). It is a safety issue,” commented Fitzgerald. She said once the project is complete these loads will be allowed but only with proper permitting.

Additional project information can be found at www.us50info.com

*please see sidebar on next page for traffic impacts

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