Tourists in Carbondale for Memorial Day next weekend may notice signs and construction equipment along Highway 133. Weather permitting, as residents return to work on Tuesday, May 27, Grand Junction-based United Companies will begin construction on a 1.9 mile, $9.4 million project to improve the highway that serves as one of Carbondale’s main thoroughfares.
Plans call for the addition of a turning lane between Delores Way and Colorado and the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Highway 133 and Main Street, which is currently controlled by a traffic signal.
The Colorado Department of Transportation expects to be able to maintain through traffic and access to businesses throughout the process.
“Ultimately for the folks in Carbondale, it’s going to a short-term aggravation of construction in exchange for some major long-term gains,” said Tracy Trulove, communications manager for CDOT Region 3.
In addition to construction woes, some citizens have raised concerns about the final product. The roundabout is viewed by some as unfriendly to pedestrian traffic. CDOT officials maintain that traffic circles are actually easier to navigate than many other types of intersections, since pedestrians need to keep track of only one lane of traffic at a time. If funds remain at the end of construction, crews may also install pedestrian blinkers to further ease the crossing.
The first phase of construction will include pouring detour pavement on the east side of the highway, installing a temporary signal at the intersection of Highway 133 and Colorado Avenue, and removing the light at Main Street. A water line replacement will also close a stretch of West Main Street during that period.
The second phase begins in mid-June and is expected to last around six weeks. Work will focus on the west side of the highway, including a new bike and pedestrian path, and the east side of the roundabout.
“That’s going to allow us to have traffic still moving on one half of the road while the other half is being built,” Trulove explained.
In late July, the focus switches to the east side of the highway and the western section of the roundabout. During this time, traffic from the west side of Main Street will detour along Hendrick Drive.
If all goes as planned, phases 4, 5, and 6 should begin in September with minimal impacts.
“The goal is to have this project completely wrapped up by November,” Trulove said.
Several aspects of the project have yet to be scheduled, including a planned traffic light at Highway 133 and Snowmass Avenue. On school mornings, the Carbondale Police Department helps direct traffic at the intersection, which serves Carbondale Middle School and Crystal River Elementary School, as well as the north entrance of River Valley Ranch. CDOT hopes to unveil a light before school starts in August, but may be held up awaiting the necessary materials.
The town of Carbondale is responsible for organizing irrigation and landscaping along the highway and in the roundabout. DHM Design prepared designs for the town, and bids are due next week. The selected contractor will coordinate with United, and could begin landscaping as early as July.
“The landscape concept was derived from what came out of the comprehensive plan,” said Charlie Kees of DHM and the Carbondale Planning and Zoning Commission. The plan calls for more robust plantings at the “gateways” such as the northern entrance to town and the Highway 82 roundabout. The comprehensive plan emphasizes drought tolerance and ease of maintenance. The space between the road and bike path will host native grasses. Nonfruiting trees have also been chosen to avoid attracting wildlife, as well as easing fall cleanup.
The plan doesn’t call for any fences or other protection for the plants. Carbondale’s Public Works department will coordinate with ranchers to protect the landscaping from periodic cattle drives, a concern that was broached at a town council meeting earlier this year.
In addition to landscaping, the roundabout will host a 20-foot-tall sculpture by Carbondale artist James Surls. Entitled “Sewing The Future,” it will rely on community donations for the materials and town funds for the base, lighting and landscaping. Surls is donating the work designing and sculpting the piece.
“It is from the heart of my family that we do our part in this gift to the town of Carbondale,” said Surls. “It is my wish that Carbondale will grow to appreciate the significant meaning of the symbolism represented in this sculpture.”
The Carbondale Chamber has set up a website at carbondale133.com for the public to keep up to date on the project. Folks can also direct questions to the project hotline, 970-688-4988, or email SH133@publicinfoteam.com.