Our View: US 40 progress is impressive | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: US 40 progress is impressive

— What a difference the sun makes.

After what many longtime locals would acknowledge was a particularly wet and cold spring, Mother Nature generally has been cooperative during the past couple of weeks. The result: substantial progress on the U.S. Highway 40 construction project through downtown Steamboat Springs. What just a short time ago seemed like a project that would never end, suddenly feels like an achievable goal early this fall.

The $5.6 million state-funded project got off to a bumpy start, made worse by the lingering effects of the economic recession on our downtown businesses and our community's general distaste and lack of familiarity with anything resembling traffic. After all, we're used to the Steamboat Springs where most trips across town take no longer than 10 minutes.

Scott Contracting said the slow progress in the project's early stages was the result of the poor spring weather; but inadequate communication and unrealistic expectations left the rest of us wondering why Scott was not working on the days that the sun did come out.

The turning point seemed to come two weeks ago, not necessarily because state Sen. Al White joined city, Colorado Department of Transportation and Scott Contracting officials to discuss the project and some of the ongoing issues among the entities, but more likely because the weather improved dramatically. That night, the officials did agree to wait until after the busy Labor Day weekend to resume work on our Main Street.

And since that night, progress on Lincoln Avenue has been visible daily. Things are going so well, in fact, that Scott Contracting now thinks it can pave the south side of Lincoln from 13th Street all the way to Ninth Street before its crews have to shut down their equipment for the busy tourism months of July and August. Lincoln Avenue will be completely open during that two-month period.

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It's also refreshing to see Scott Contracting's willingness to work with community organizations when needed. There was the company's unexpected and kind-hearted gesture that helped the Leadership Steamboat class out of a jam on the morning it planned to hold a grand opening ceremony for the new Community Roots Garden. And then, as told by Kara Givnish and Paul Sachs in a letter to the editor in today's paper, there was Scott Contracting's considerable efforts to help make the Steamboat Marathon, Half-Marathon and 10K a success this year despite the obvious challenges of a Lincoln Avenue finish line. We have seen other remarkable community-minded gestures, such as clearing a path for an ambulance to get through the construction zone without delay on its way to Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Progress on the project hasn't necessarily made for fewer headaches for motorists. Last week saw the most significant backups for traffic heading into the downtown area from the east and west sides of the city. But even motorists seem to now know what to expect and how to force a smile and get through it.

Before we hold hands and sing "Kumbaya," it's worth acknowledging that there's still a fair amount of work left. But what we see today on Lincoln Avenue is the preview of what will be a much improved downtown highway, functionally and aesthetically, providing access for those of us with disabilities and a safer and friendlier environment for pedestrians. Let's continue to do everything we can to support our downtown merchants so they, too, can enjoy the fruits of this immensely difficult, complex and disrupting reconstruction project.