Improvements planned for State Highway 13 from Rifle to Rio Blanco hill |

Improvements planned for State Highway 13 from Rifle to Rio Blanco hill

Mike McKibbin/Citizen Telegram
Staff Photo |

The money hasn’t been found yet, but a preliminary design for safety and traffic improvements on Colorado Highway 13 from Rifle to the Rio Blanco hill has been developed by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

An open house to share information on the three-phase project was held Tuesday, July 16, in the Rifle Branch Library.

The scope of the $60 million to $70 million construction project — start date awaits funding — will largely reflect that of projects in recent years on the highway between the Wyoming state line and the Garfield-Rio Blanco county line, said Project Designer Andrew Knapp.

“We’ll be adding eight-foot shoulders on either side of the highway, reconstructing portions of the highway to straighten out some of the curves,” he said. “Where we can do that, the speed limit will be 65 mph.”

Passing lanes for northbound traffic, retaining walls to protect Government Creek and the hillsides on the east side of the highway are also planned, Knapp added. Steel culverts under the highway will be replaced with concrete box culverts as well.

Wildlife fencing and ramps, and approximately 12 wildlife underpasses (each 12-foot by 10-foot), will also be included, Knapp said. That could lead to the elimination of the nighttime 55 mph speed limit that’s been imposed over the last several years to help reduce wildlife-vehicle accidents.

“That’s why some people call Highway 13 ‘dead deer highway,’” he added.

The project will address the 12-mile stretch north of Rifle, from mile marker 4 to 16 (from Colorado Highway 325 to the county line).

Funding for the work will come through CDOT’s regular process, Knapp said, along with other possible sources, such as a grant from the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District.

“We want to be ready so when we have the funds, we can move quickly,” he added.

If funding is acquired, all three phases could be completed in about five years, Knapp said.

Another preliminary step is the acquisition of about 60 acres of private right of way along the highway, Knapp noted.

“We always want to be mindful of minimizing impacts to adjacent landowners,” he said. “So if a house is close to the highway, we won’t put a passing lane there.”

Right-of-way acquisition should start by the end of the year, Knapp said, and continue over the winter.

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