CDOT Improves Safety on US 550 North of Ridgway

August 5, 2011 - Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - Project receives $4.5 million in FASTER Safety Funds.

OURAY COUNTY – The Colorado Department of Transportation begins a project on August 15 to improve safety and mobility on a section of US 550 between Ridgway and Colona. The project will construct two new southbound lanes between milepoints 115.5 and 117, about 12 miles north of Ridgway. This will, in effect, create a four-lane stretch of highway for safer passing.

“The addition of passing lanes will greatly increase safety along this well-traveled stretch,” said State Transportation Commissioner Doug Aden, who represents Northwestern Colorado. “US 550 is a vital north-south corridor serving the Western Slope—for commuters, tourists and commercial transportation. Improving safety and mobility on this stretch is a high priority.”

Other safety improvements on this project include eight-foot high wildlife fencing, wildlife escape ramps (one-way earthen ramps adjacent to the fence whereby animals can exit the highway right of way), a dynamic wildlife detection warning system, “deer” guards at primary accesses, improved drainage and more.

The wildlife features involve a buried cable detection system that was first installed on US 160 east of Durango in 2009 and is achieving marked success to date. The underground cable detects changes in the earth's electromagnetic field. The presence of large animals (deer, elk, horses) crossing this cable will trigger detection by the system. The system then transmits information to a sensor module that will activate electronic signs to warn motorists of wildlife in the roadway’s vicinity. This system will be placed at each end of the wildlife fencing to reduce the potential for wildlife-vehicle collisions in those areas.

“The most successful wildlife crash measure that has been proven to work in highway settings is wildlife fencing,” CDOT Traffic & Safety Engineer Mike McVaugh said. “The electronic detection system adds a benefit to large wildlife in areas where there are gaps in fencing to allow normal migration to occur. Complete wildlife fencing is not a viable option where there are known migration routes.”

TRAVEL IMPACTS: Monday through Friday, from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M., motorists will encounter single-lane, alternating traffic through the work zone. The speed limit will be reduced to 45 mph and motorists are urged to drive with caution and maintain a safe following distance. The project will be suspended for the winter—likely December through February—and will be completed in August 2012.

For project comments or questions (when work begins), the public may call the project hotline at (970) 812-7212. Updated information regarding traffic impacts on this or other CDOT projects is available at or by calling 511. To receive project updates via wireless device or e-mail, visit and click on the green cell-phone icon in the upper right-hand corner. The link takes you to a list of items/areas you can subscribe to.

This project was awarded to United Companies of Grand Junction for $7 million. It will receive $4.5 million in FASTER Safety funding. FASTER (Funding Advancements for Surface Treatment and Economic Recovery) was established by the Colorado General assembly via Senate Bill 09-108 ( to fund the repair of Colorado’s structurally deficient bridges and make safety improvements to Colorado’s key corridors.