The transportation director for the Colorado Department of Transportations Region 5 found some support Wednesday for the agencys proposal to use the Bridge to Nowhere to connect U.S. Highway 550 to U.S. Highway 160 in Grandview.
But a battery of four engineers and two attorneys representing the historic Webb Ranch, through which the agencys preferred Highway 550 alignment would run, said there is a much easier and financially reasonable way to connect the two highways.
The rationale for the CDOT choice of the Bridge to Nowhere, which probably wont live down its derisive nickname, was explained by Kerrie Neet, the agencys area director, at a public hearing about a revised environmental impact statement triggered by a realignment of the agencys preferred route.
Two other proposed routes would connect Highway 550 to Highway 160 at Three Springs Boulevard farther to the east. All three alignments, designed to eliminate the need to negotiate the steep, treacherous Farmington Hill descent, veer away from 550 south of County Road 220.
Neet said the alignment through the Webb Ranch has the fewest impacts to residents and businesses, irrigated farmland, wildlife habitat, wetlands and historic sites.
Information presented at the public hearing at Escalante Middle School showed CDOTs chosen alignments would impact two properties, including Webb Ranch, and 71 acres. The other proposed alignments would impact, respectively, three properties and 106 acres and two properties and 133 acres.
Tom McNeill, one of the Webb attorneys, said his team opposes all three proposed routes.
The team members prefer modifying the Farmington Hill approach. The alignment, which has a couple of harrowing switchbacks, could be smoothed out by cutting slightly into the hillside. The terrain lost to excavation is part of the Webb Ranch, so no other property owner would be affected.
Mike Russell, an engineer representing the Webbs, said CDOT is overestimating the cost of his solution and underestimating the cost of its own.
The Webb team was particularly critical of how CDOT proposes to reach the Bridge to Nowhere from the top of Florida Mesa. A triangle 800 feet at the base, 1,400 feet long and 40 to 120 feet deep, would be cut into the earth to make the transition, a difference of 600 feet in elevation.
Kathleen Krager, another Webb engineer, said a cut of those dimensions would require the removal of 1.6 million cubic yards of earth. A big-belly dump truck has a capacity of 20 cubic yards, she said.
Trucks would have to make 800,000 trips to remove the earth, she said.
Neet said after the meeting that CDOT will look at whatever information the Webb representatives present.
Weve done some preliminary cost estimates, Neet said.
About 30 people, limited to three minutes each, spoke.
Several residents supported CDOTs preferred alignment. Moving routes farther east would bring traffic to or even through their land, the speakers said. Two speakers have property along one of the potential routes that they have earmarked for a retirement home.
A couple of speakers chastised CDOT for illogical planning, saying the agency built the $47 million interchange on Highway 160 before it had a route to connect Highway 550.
Until a new interchange is operational, motorists will use the present 550/160 connection at Farmington Hill.
A new 550/160 connection probably is several years away, but the interchange will open to traffic probably at the end of the month. It will provide on- and off-ramps to Highway 160 and, eventually, access to Wilson Gulch Road, a back way to Mercy Regional Medical Center and Three Springs.
Planning for the interchange began in the early 1990s as one of the states 28 high-priority transportation needs. Included was the upgrading of Highway 160 between Durango and Bayfield.
The corridor around the interchange recorded 27,875 vehicle daily trips at peak times in 2009. At the current pace, the number is expected to reach 44,478 by 2030. If the Grandview area reaches its potential development, the number of daily trips could hit 85,910 by 2030.