CDOT Suspends Work for Winter on US 550 South of Durango

December 6, 2011 - Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - End of travel impacts at US 550 and CR 302 until spring 2012.

LA PLATA COUNTY – The Colorado Department of Transportation and contractor Old Castle SW Group Inc. are suspending work for the winter on the safety-improvement project at US 550 and La Plata CR 302 south of Durango. The work is scheduled to resume on March 19, weather permitting, and will be completed in the summer of 2012.

The project, which lies north and south of La Plata County Road (CR) 302 (between mile posts 11.3 and 12.8), involves major reconstruction with intersection safety improvements and a new four-lane divided highway through this stretch.

Work includes excavation and new roadway construction, new right-of-way and wildlife fencing, a wildlife detection system at the fence ends, wildlife escape ramps and guards, and drainage improvements. The project was contracted to Old Castle SW Group Inc. of Grand Junction for $4.77 million.

HIGHWAY RECONSTRUCTION: The project constructs a new four-lane highway divided by a center grass median (ranging in width from 16 to 36 feet, depending upon highway travel lanes) to the east of the current alignment. The construction schedule has crews building the two new northbound lanes this year. Next year, all traffic will be switched onto the new lanes, then crews will build new southbound lanes, using recycled road base material from the existing US 550 roadway.

The four-lane highway will also get auxiliary lanes:  southbound left-turn and northbound right -turn lanes on US 550 and a left‐turn acceleration lane onto southbound US 550 from westbound CR 302.  Amber LED flashers will be added to existing intersection warning signs to help get drivers’ attention.

WILDLIFE FEATURES: The wildlife/driver safety features include construction of 6,200 linear feet of eight-foot-high wildlife fence (about 3,100 feet on each side of the highway); four wildlife escape ramps (one-way earthen ramps adjacent to the fence whereby animals can exit the highway right of way); five “deer guards” at highway access points; and a buried cable detection system at each fence end. (This type of detection system was first installed on US 160 east of Durango in 2009 and is achieving marked success to date.) An underground cable buried on either side of the roadway 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—with three dynamic signs at each end—to reduce the potential for wildlife-vehicle collisions in those areas.

TRAVEL IMPACTS: None until March 19, 2012, weather permitting.

PROJECT INFORMATION: For additional information or questions about the project, the public may contact Marty Punchak at (970) 247-2172. 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.