CDOT Begins Project to Improve Safety, Traveler Communications on US 550 Near Purgatory Ski Area (North of Durango)

September 17, 2015 - Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - Purgatory Mtn. Resort, Purgatory Metro District Contributed Funding.

LA PLATA COUNTY - The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) begins a project next Monday to improve travel and traveler communications along US 550 near Purgatory Mountain Resort, about 20 miles north of Durango. The project, with an estimated total cost of $790,000 (design through construction), was contracted to Glaser Electric Company. CDOT partnered with Purgatory Mountain Resort and the Purgatory Metro District, with these agencies funding a combined total of $38,500 for these transportation improvements. The work this season will wrap up in late October, with sign and lighting installation happening next spring, when weather permits.

The work will reduce the northbound through lanes on US 550 from two lanes down to one lane as you approach Purgatory Resort between mile point 47.7 (just south of the ski area) and MP 51 (at Cascade). Crews will add a southbound continuous right-turn lane between Purgatory and the Gelande ski parking. For northbound travel, crews will add a continuous right-turn lane from Engineer Drive to Tacoma Village, providing safer northbound access into and out of sub-divisions. (There currently is a continuous left-turn lane in the center of the highway that runs from south of Needles to the ski area—that will remain in place.)

The project will also include expansion of chain-up and chain-down stations north of the Purgatory entrance, adding lighting at the chain stations and installing an overhead electronic variable message sign (VMS) for northbound travelers. This will replace an aging VMS board at Cascade as a part of CDOT’s statewide VMS upgrade effort.

“We’re improving safety by transitioning from two through lanes to a single through lane on northbound US 550 as you approach Purgatory and using the extra pavement to provide right-turn lanes to the several accesses in this area on both sides of the highway. This segment of US 550 has an annual average daily traffic count of 2,900, which is about 290 cars per hour during the busiest part of the day.  A single through lane can accommodate up to 1,200 vehicles per hour, eliminating one lane will help to reduce traffic speeds and eliminate unnecessary passing as you approach the busy Purgatory entrance going north,” CDOT Region 5 Traffic & Safety Engineer Mike McVaugh said. “Safety will also be improved by providing a dedicated chain stations with lighting for semi-trucks—our upgraded and relocated VMS will better inform all travelers of road closures and the need to chain up when the laws are in effect, as well as communicate to all travelers the conditions on US 550 mountain passes.”

TRAVEL IMPACTS: From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., motorists can expect single-lane closures and traffic shifts, with at least one lane open in each direction at all times; the speed limit will be reduced to 40 mph.

CDOT PROJECT INFORMATION:  For questions or comments on the project, the public may call the project information line at (303) 866-5315. To sign up for CDOT updates on projects in your chosen area, visit CDOT’s website at and choose the envelope icon at the bottom of the page. Or, to see CDOT’s lane closure reports for projects statewide, visit A brief on all upcoming projects (titled “Traffic Watchers”) in CDOT’s Region 5 (SW Colorado) is posted here: Major CDOT project updates are also available via Twitter @coloradodot and be sure to “Like” us on Facebook. Download the free CDOT Mobile for information regarding the I-70 and I-25 corridors by texting “CDOT” to 25827 or search CDOT Mobile in your App Store.