Here’s why traffic was such a nightmare Thursday for commuters in west Steamboat |

Here’s why traffic was such a nightmare Thursday for commuters in west Steamboat

Scott Franz

Traffic backs up on U.S. Highway 40 at the intersection of Elk River Road on Thursday afternoon.

Commuters who drove into Steamboat Springs from western Routt County on Thursday morning had a legitimate excuse for being late to work.

A road miller working on U.S. Highway 40 got close enough to the ongoing intersection work at Elk River Road that it snarled traffic and created an unexpected domino effect that held up eastbound commuter traffic for as long as 30 minutes, according to project spokeswoman Nancy Shanks.

The delays were not anticipated, nor were they the result of any accidents.

"We certainly regret it, and it shouldn't happen again," Shanks said. “No one intended to hold up the eastbound traffic.”

The contract for the construction project stipulates that the road work shouldn’t hold up the eastbound commuter traffic like it did on Thursday.

Shanks reached out to Steamboat Today to explain what had caused the traffic backup and to outline the steps crews will take in the future to prevent holding up the commuter traffic.

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Because the road milling in the westbound lanes got so close to Elk River Road, Shanks said crews had to hold up eastbound traffic to clear up the traffic congestion that was forming at the Elk River intersection and the westbound lanes.

"I'm sure there are people who are going to get up (Friday) and go 'oh my god, what's it going to be like today,’" Shanks said.

Shanks said the project team is revisiting its traffic control plans to avoid a repeat of the traffic delays.

The road milling operations west of town were completed on Thursday afternoon, meaning they won’t be a factor on Friday.

Milling is performed to remove cracks and imperfections underneath a road surface in anticipation of paving operations.

The paving on U.S. 40 is expected to start on Monday.

Shanks said commuters heading into Steamboat from the east should now expect “typical” travel delays of up to 10 to 15 minutes depending on traffic.

However, drivers moving through west Steamboat should be aware that as the summer progresses and traffic volumes increase, delays could also increase.

"Certainly as summer kicks in, there will be impacts, that's for sure," Shanks said.

The work in west Steamboat includes the resurfacing of nearly five miles of highway from Elk River Road to Routt County Road 33A, the installation of 1,800 feet of new sidewalk between Shield Drive and Riverside Plaza and improvements to the intersection of U.S. 40 and Elk River.

The overall project, which costs $6.9 million, is on schedule.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10