CDOT Resumes Construction of First Wildlife Underpass on US 160 Between Durango and Bayfield

May 4, 2016 - Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - LA PLATA COUNTY – The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is continuing a project started last fall to construct a wildlife underpass on US 160 between Bayfield and Durango (located at Dry Creek, about five miles east of the junction of US 160 and SH 172, between MM 97 and MM 98.)

CDOT’s contractor for the project, Crossfire LLC, resumed construction last month, with impacts to travel remaining minimal. The total cost of the project—from design through construction—is estimated at $6.5 million. The project will be completed in August of 2016.

The project constructs a large mammal underpass—a pre-cast concrete arch structure with a natural earth bottom. This arch span bridge will be 37 feet wide and 13 feet high.  Half of the bridge structure was installed last fall next to the existing highway. Crews are now paving a two-lane detour atop the completed portion. Once detour lanes are paved, traffic will be switched to drive over the completed half of the bridge while Crossfire installs the other half.

Once the entire project is complete, the detour will be closed and fenced off but will remain in place to accommodate possible future widening from two to four lanes, as called for in the US 160 Environmental Impact Statement or EIS. The roadway above the completed underpass will remain a single lane in each direction with widened 10-foot shoulders. Crews will also install some 10,700 linear feet of wildlife fencing and eight wildlife escape ramps.

“Between 9,200 and 9,600 vehicles travel this stretch of US 160 each day,” CDOT Program Engineer Ed Archuleta said. “Crash data over the last five years show that 58 percent of all collisions are wildlife-vehicle crashes at this location. Reports also show a high number of single-vehicle overturning crashes are occurring here. The underpass and wider highway shoulders will help prevent these types of collisions.”

La Plata County tops the list for highest Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions (WVCs) in the state at 252 in 2013; Jefferson County, 248; El Paso, 201; Douglas, 199; Garfield, 128; Moffat, 116; Larimer, 106; Montezuma, 106;  (view more county and statewide data, here: (Numbers above are from the chart entitled “Reported Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions by Type and County.”)

This underpass is the first of several wildlife crossings recommended in the US 160 EIS between Durango and Bayfield. Wildlife features were identified in the EIS in coordination with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“WVCs still remain one of the leading threats to the state’s wildlife, particularly during fall and spring migration” Colorado Parks and Wildlife Communications Manager Matt Robbins said. “We know where the migration corridors are and we are working closely with CDOT to design mitigation features where they will be the most effective.”

PROJECT IMPACTS/INFORMATION:  Work will be done between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day, though much of it will be accomplished off the highway and with the use of the detour. Lane closures are not anticipated until the end of the project, when the new alignment is tied to the existing. During construction the speed limit will be reduced to 40 mph. For more information or to ask questions, please contact the contractor’s public information line at (970) 828-2897.

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