Local commuters who noticed delays on Florida Road this week should get used to the idea.
Workers are installing a traffic signal and turn lanes at the junction of Florida Road (County Road 240) and East Animas Road (County Road 250), near Star Liquors and Durango Fitness Center, as part of a $1.5 million city project. Turn lanes will be constructed in all three directions. Curbs, gutters and wider shoulders also will be added.
"Part of the challenge the last couple days has been milling the asphalt, and unfortunately, that requires them to work in larger sections, which adds to the traffic issues," said Durango Assistant City Manager Greg Caton.
Caton said crews encountered more asphalt than they expected - 10 inches deep in some places.
"Once we get past this stage, we'll be able to work in smaller sections, and that will really help the continuous flow of traffic."
Florida Road is a major access road for residents who work in Durango and live north and east of town.
Currently, traffic is reduced to one lane in each direction from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Caton said work on the project will continue until midsummer, affecting commuters less on their way to work than on their way home.
The project is not part of the Florida Road bond measure that passed in November. Voters approved that $14.5 million measure to improve the road. Under that proposal, Florida Road will be completely rebuilt, and sidewalks and bike lanes will be added. The two-lane road will add a center left-turn lane that will extend from 15th Street to East Animas Road.
Preliminary aspects of the bond measure project, such as survey, drainage and design work, already have begun. Caton said road work on the bond project will begin this year but shouldn't impact drivers until after the East Animas/Florida intersection project is completed.
Caton said the traffic signal has been designed to cause breaks in the flow of traffic heading into town on Florida Road, which should ease congestion down the road and keep left-turners from obstructing cars behind them.
"This is a really good project for the area. It should really assist with traffic flow and safety issues. Once it's complete, I think motorists will be pleased with the improvements. But with road-construction projects, there are challenges, and we ask motorists for patience at this time."
He encouraged residents to continue providing the city with input.