Construction on Colorado Highway 131 stays on track |

Construction on Colorado Highway 131 stays on track

A wall of dirt and rock comes tumbling down a hillside on Colorado Highway 131 on Wednesday afternoon between Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek. Construction crews working for the Colorado Department of Transportation are working on widening and improving a three-mile stretch of highway in Oak Creek Canyon.
John F. Russell

— The mild fall weather is helping construction crews stay on schedule as they work on improvements to Colorado Highway 131 between Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek.

Eric Marsh, project manager with general contractor Connell Resources, said the crew of about 15 workers plans to do most of the dirt work and storm pipe work on the widening project before it packs up for the winter. The Colorado Department of Transportation project started Aug. 4 and is scheduled for completion in November 2012.

“We’re right on track, if not ahead,” Marsh said.

CDOT officials said to expect 10-minute delays between mile markers 55 and 58 near the entrance to Oak Creek Canyon where the road has been reduced to one lane. Marsh said Tuesday that those delays have been about four to seven minutes and that he expects them to remain in that window.

The improvements are part of a larger plan to improve that stretch of Colo. 131 by straightening out curves, flattening hills, widening shoulders and removing some terrain features that obstruct drivers’ vision.

“Right now, you have a little, skinny, 11-foot driving lane with no shoulder and a steep drop,” Marsh explained. “And when we’re done, you’ll have a 12-foot driving lane, an 8-foot shoulder and safer drops.”

Not only will it be a safer road to drive, he added, it also will be safer and more enjoyable for cyclists riding through the canyon.

During the project, CenturyLink also will be laying fiber-optic cable.

In the past few weeks, Marsh said crews have run into some thicker shale in their excavation that has required blasting.

About once per week, crews have been blasting a few thousand cubic yards. CDOT officials have been warning local residents about the blasting and plan to blast at least once more next week. Marsh said the total blast volume wouldn’t be more than 12,000 cubic yards by the end of the project.

Connell Resources’ bid for this phase of the project was $6.9 million.

Since 2002, CDOT has completed three major projects to improve the safety of Colo. 131 between mile markers 58 and 65 for about $12.1 million.

CDOT spokeswoman Ashley Mohr said this fourth phase is running smoothly.

“So far, we’ve actually not received any complaints about the project,” Mohr said. “We actually got a compliment about it the other day. We’re just going to keep working and doing what we can to stay on schedule.”

— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email

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