Construction is underway on a $2.3 million intersection improvement project at U.S. Highway 491 and County Road M.
The intersection has been identified as the Colorado Department of Transportations No. 3 intersection priority in Region 5, which comprises Montezuma, Dolores, Montrose, San Miguel, Ouray, San Juan, La Plata, Mineral, Archuleta, Chaffe, Saguache, Rio Grande, Alamosa, Conejos and Costilla counties.
We are very happy to be starting this project to address traffic safety and mobility in this area, said Nancy Shanks, department of transportation public relations specialist. (The intersection) is an area where improvement is needed with all the merging on and off of Highway 491 and (Cortez Livestock Auction) being right there. The intersection needs improvements for turning and safety without causing congestion that can lead to safety issues.
The project work zone on Highway 419 extends from mile post 29.2, just south of Road M, north through mile post 29.8, according to the department of transportation. The scope of work includes highway widening for the addition of acceleration and deceleration lanes in both directions; widening at the approaches of Road M to add acceleration lanes; and the installation of fencing, guardrails, retaining walls and drainage improvements.
Improvement of the intersection has been a priority of Montezuma County commissioners for years, said Montezuma County Administrator Ashton Harrison.
The county commissioners have desired to get that intersection improved for a long time, Harrison said. It has long been their top priority for CDOT in this area. This is a great thing.
The intersection has raised safety concerns for years due to accidents, limited visibility and additional traffic from auctions at the local sale barn, Harrison said.
Intersection safety studies include a variety of factors, including accident history, whether or not the intersection meets design standards, traffic counts, truck traffic and whether or not the intersection is part of the national highway system, Shanks said.
According to a 2009 traffic study completed by the department of transportation, the intersection sees an average of 7,400 vehicles a day. Of that, just over 9 percent are trucks.
It isnt a necessarily high vehicle count but the location of the intersection and factors such as the sale barn add to the priority of the intersection, Shanks said.
The project is being funded through state resources, including Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery. The program, often referred to as FASTER, was created by the Colorado General Assembly in 2009 and uses increased vehicle registration fees to pay for road and bridge projects.
Montezuma County contributed $50,000 to the project, which aided in moving the intersection up on the priority list, Harrison said.
We are spending funds on the project, he said. One of the ways we helped to get higher up on the list is we were able to provide local matching funds.
The speed limit through the intersection has been lowered to 40 miles per hour to aid construction, and caution is encouraged when traveling through the work zone, especially during heavy traffic flow.
I would imagine traffic will increase on Wednesday sale days, and I would encourage motorists to obey the speed limit and keep a safe following distance and be cautious through the cone zone, Shanks said.
The project was contracted to Four Corners Materials and is scheduled for completion by July 15. Work hours are slated for 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. There will be no holiday work, and no weekend work is currently anticipated.
For more information, contact Marty Punchak with Four Corners Materials at 749-5982.
Reach Kimberly Benedict at [email protected]