County Commissioners put pedal down on plan to shave Yellowjacket’s crown

Tom Ross

— The Routt County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to spend an extra $705,000 on Routt County 14 improvements this summer in order to shave seven feet off the crown of Yellowjacket Pass, improving safety for motorists and cyclists in the process.

The work is part of a larger $1.24 million project awarded to Native Excavating, the low bidder.

Taking the peak off 600 feet of road at the top of the pass has been part of the plan since the first phase of improvements were carried out on the busy road between Steamboat and Stagecoach in the summer of 2014. However, Road and Bridge Director Janet Hruby told commissioners Monday that her original intent to keep that phase of the work in-house was unrealistic given the amount of work her department already has on the books for this summer. She suggested that putting off the portion of the project involving lowering the pass was an available option.

However, Commissioner Tim Corrigan pointed out that delaying the work was likely to cost more money.

“My mindset is, now’s the time to do it,” Corrigan said.

The additional funds will come from $1.1 million in severance tax funds the county expects to receive later this year (that amount is in the long-form state budget bill expected to be passed by the legislature), far exceeding the conservative amount anticipated in the county budget adopted late last year.

“I feel very comfortable with this, and I’m comfortable with telling that to our taxpayers,” Commissioner Doug Monger said. “It will result in improved safety and drive-ability.”

Hruby said that in its present condition, with a curving and steep approach to the top of the pass, sight distances are inadequate, particularly when the curve causes approaching motorists to stray into the oncoming lane.

“This will provide more room for people when cyclists are on the road and when other cars are driving in the wrong lane.”

The total 2015 project cost of $1.24 million includes repaving and widening a .7 mile stretch of road from Hibbert Lane to Henderson Park Road. Hruby said that lowering the crown of the pass will generate enough excess fill to allow the contractor to extend the length of road that is to receive widened shoulders, and that cost is included in the bid.

Colorado Highway 131 offers a practical bypass for motorists commuting between Stagecoach and Steamboat Springs during construction this summer. The start date is pending.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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