Residents might need to give the Bridge to Nowhere a new nickname at the end of the year.
Construction on Wilson Gulch Drive began at the end of January, and when it is finished, it will allow drivers to go from Three Springs to downtown Durango and bypass a traffic signal. It also will give emergency vehicles a more direct route to Mercy Regional Medical Center.
“This project underway makes the Bridge to Nowhere go somewhere,” said Greg Hoch, Durango’s community development director.
The $8.2 million project will extend Wilson Gulch Drive 4,000 feet to connect it to the U.S. Highway 160 interchange at the bottom of Grandview Hill.
The city is managing the project because it will become a city road, said Ron LeBlanc, city manager.
Currently, the crews with Oldcastle SW Group Inc. of Bayfield are working on a mass excavation that will help them relocate utility lines, Hoch said.
This project is funded jointly by three entities: Durango will chip in $2.64 million, La Plata County will contribute $1.3 million and Colorado Department of Transportation will cover $4.29 million.
City officials and the GF Real Estate Group envision this new corridor as an area where big-box stores could set up shop.
The city has approved a development called The Gateway at Three Springs that would consist of 256,000 square feet of retail space.
Starting construction has been helpful in negotiations with retailers, but many of them are interested in seeing U.S. Highway 550 realigned, LeBlanc said. The realignment would eliminate Farmington Hill and connect 550 to the interchange.
The stakeholders have agreed on a route for the realignment, and the CDOT currently is working on a supplemental final Environmental Impact Statement. This statement likely will be finished by May, said Nancy Shanks, a spokeswoman for CDOT.
However, CDOT has not identified where all the funding would come from for the project, which could cost $75 million to $91 million, she said. Although, they do have some money for design work.
In the meantime, city officials are happy to see the Wilson Gulch Drive project moving forward to improve access to Three Springs, which is set to add a 100-unit apartment complex soon.
“This will help that community to continue to grow,” LeBlanc said.