US 40 construction set to finish Wednesday after gas leak prompts business closures
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There’s been some visible frustration for drivers heading southbound on U.S. Highway 40 from Anglers Drive to Pine Grove Road as they have been forced into one lane since Nov. 20.
But that frustration is expected to ease this week, according to city officials.
Work to fix a leaking gas main is set to wrap up Wednesday, Nov. 27, and the highway will then reopen. The leak was discovered Nov. 19 in the area of the new Fish Creek Underpass that was recently completed near Anglers Drive.
Once the problem was located, Atmos Energy began a pipe replacement project that closed one lane of traffic for about 900 feet along U.S. 40 and prompted the implementation of a zipper merge.
But the concept was lost on some travelers, and traffic could be seen stretching far back, at times nearly reaching downtown.
“Yes, it sucks that we are down to one lane, but stop flipping people off that are appropriately using the zipper method to help with traffic,” said Steamboat Springs City Council member Lisel Petis.
The zipper merge method, which is considered the fastest way to merge according to many traffic experts, entails drivers in both lanes traveling to the last point of merge and alternating turns to proceed.
As the pipe replacement project began, the new Fish Creek Underpass was closed, along with a few businesses in the vicinity, including Domino’s Pizza and Land Title Guarantee Co. in the Sundance at Fish Creek plaza.
It was like something out of a game show for employees at Land Title Guarantee Co. last week when they were forced to evacuate.
Atmos Energy workers walked around the office Nov. 20 with portable gas meters and found natural gas to be in some of the rooms. After a full evacuation, employees were then given about five minutes to run back into their building, at 255 Anglers Drive, to collect belongings. So they grabbed a few shopping carts from neighboring Safeway and starting running through their offices grabbing the necessary items to continue their work elsewhere.
They are now sharing the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors office, at 625 S. Lincoln Ave., as a temporary office.
“It’s been difficult, but we’re getting it done,” said Cannon Hyche, a closing processor at Land Title.
The project also forced a Steamboat Springs Transit bus stop on the south side of Anglers Road to be temporarily moved to the north side of the highway.
The work is scheduled to be completed late Tuesday and the closed lane along U.S. 40 to be reopened Wednesday, according to Danny Paul, staff engineer with Steamboat Springs Public Works.
Atmos Energy crews replaced a section of existing natural gas distribution pipeline with approximately 500 feet of 6-inch steel pipe, which would enhance the safety and reliability of the system.
“Safety is Atmos Energy’s core value, and our technicians will continue to monitor the affected area throughout the project,” said Kevin Kerrigan, Atmos Energy manager.
To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.
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