The interchange known as the Bridge to Nowhere may yet serve as the connection for U.S. Highway 550 and U.S. Highway 160.
A new draft environmental report released this week by the Colorado Department of Transportation names the interchange as the preferred location for joining the two highways. The path of Highway 550 across the mesa would be altered slightly from a previously proposed route to avoid a gas well.
The public will have the opportunity to ask questions about the plans at a hearing Nov. 2 at Escalante Middle School.
CDOT will take public comments on the report until Nov. 28. A final decision about the alignment is expected in spring 2012.
In the interim, motorists will use the current 550/160 interchange at Farmington Hill, CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said Friday.
Although the $47 million interchange will not connect to Highway 550 any time soon, it will be operational next month, Shanks said. The roundabout and ramps will serve Highway 160 and surrounding areas.
Two other connection options were considered in the report. They are:
Routing Highway 550 farther east and connecting it to the Three Springs intersection.
Winding Highway 550 across Florida Mesa and hooking it to the Three Springs intersection.
After a new alignment is carrying traffic, the abandoned section of Highway 550 will end at a commercial establishment where the highway begins its abrupt descent. The remainder of the downgrade will be revegetated.
The roundabout north of Highway 160 is the workhorse of the interchange. From that point, motorists can choose on- and off-ramps to Highway 160 and, eventually, Wilson Gulch Road that will provide access to Three Springs and Mercy Regional Medical Center.
The completed interchange contains four bridges, six retaining walls and a 2,000-foot-long multiuse footpath. It also adds a fourth lane to a stretch of Highway 160 and drainage work.
Planning for the new interchange began in the early 1990s as one of 28 high-priority transportation needs statewide. The project included upgrading Highway 160 between Durango and Bayfield.
Replacing the Farmington Hill interchange was a safety issue. The two-lane Highway 550 was steep with unnerving switchbacks, she said.
CDOT has spent more than $100,000 on the supplemental environmental assessment, plus staff time. The supplemental report took into account four historic ranches.
If Highway 550 is routed farther east, it would require the analysis of three other ranches.
The corridor around the interchange registered 27,875 vehicle trips a day at peak times in 2009. The number is expected to rise to 44,478 trips day by 2030 at the current growth rate. If the Grandview area develops to its potential, the number of daily trips could rise to 85,910 by 2030.