Construction work on the partially collapsed manhole along U.S. Highway 550/160 near Santa Rita Park will cause traffic delays until at least Wednesday, but delays could last longer once officials determine the extent of the damage.
Officials will spend the weekend investigating the cement panels underneath the highway, which collapsed midday Friday and caused sewage to spill over the highway, the Animas River Trail and into the Animas River.
“If there’s significant damage down there, we may be looking at an extended period of time,” said city spokesman Mitchell Carter.
Crews began working on construction Friday evening and will work through the weekend. A bypass for sewage around the damaged area has been installed while the city repairs the manhole and the sewer pipe.
City officials are still unclear about what caused the manhole to collapse. The collapse cut off the flow of the sewer line, which caused the overflow.
The city put traffic control in place to help ease the congestion in the area Friday evening. One lane of southbound and one lane of northbound traffic will be open from Santa Rita Park to the intersection with the frontage road and County Road 210.
Drivers will also be unable to access County Road 210 directly from Highway 550/160. The intersection of Sawyer Drive and Highway 550/160 will provide access to the frontage roads and businesses in Bodo Industrial Park, Lake Nighthorse and County Road 210.
The city encourages drivers to consider alternate routes, such as Colorado Highway 3 or Florida Road and County Road 234 to Elmore’s Corner.
“Traffic is flowing pretty good now that we have the traffic control in place, but drivers are encouraged to avoid the area,” Carter said.
In addition to the lane closures, southbound drivers on Highway 550 will be unable to turn left to access Highway 3, and Santa Rita Park will be closed to vehicles. Santa Rita Park is open only via the Animas River Trail. There will be no pedestrian access from Highway 550 because the city shut off the traffic control lights at the intersection, eliminating pedestrian crossing.
The Animas River Trail has been sanitized at the site of the sewer backup. However the city is working with commercial rafting companies to take out at Cundiff Park, south of Santa Rita Park.
“There’s just too many safety concerns with parking large buses and trailers on the shoulder especially when there’s already traffic impacts with the detours and everything that’s going on,” city spokesman Mitchell Carter said.
The collapse was first reported about 11:30 a.m. Friday, and it caused an estimated 600 gallons to overflow from the sewer system. Fewer than 300 gallons flowed into the Animas River during a period that lasted less than two hours. It is a small amount compared with the hundreds of thousands of gallons flowing by Santa Rita Park at any given time, assistant city manager Amber Blake said.
Downstream water users, including the city of Farmington, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Animas-La Plata Project, were informed of the sewage spill Friday.
Construction at the wastewater treatment plan will continue, Blake said.
Because of detours and traffic disruption, Durango Transit service to Walmart will be reduced to one run an hour until further notice.
Anyone with questions about Durango Transit service should call 259-5438.