Highway 6 workers hurry to beat winter | VailDaily.com

Highway 6 workers hurry to beat winter

Matt Zalaznick

That’s because with snow already burying parts of the valley, work continues at both major U.S. Highway 6 construction projects – an interchange at the Interstate 70 overpass and a roundabout at the old Nottingham Ranch Road.

“It’s going to be tight, like it’s been, because the construction won’t be finished,” says Eagle County Engineer Helen Migchelbrink.

The “half-diamond” interchange will not be finished until next summer at the earliest, but workers are hoping to finish the roundabout by the end of the month, says Erik Peterson, director of construction for Village at Avon developer Traer Creek.

“If we could get 10 days of marginal weather, we can get that roundabout done,” Peterson says. “We’ve still got a couple of weeks worth of working out there.”

While both local ski mountains are considering opening the slopes before the scheduled Nov. 23 first day of ski season, Peterson jokes he may be the only person in the valley hoping for two weeks of warm, dry weather.

“Maybe just a pocket of warm air over the roundabout,” he says.

But if it’s too cold, workers won’t be able to pave the roundabout, he says.

“Weather permitting, it will be complete by Thanksgiving,” he says. “Weather not permitting, the road will remain the way it is.”

Traffic over the last few weeks has been routed slightly to the south while workers build the northern half of the roundabout. If that’s finished, traffic will then be routed slightly to the north so the southern half of the roundabout can be built, Peterson says.

“We’re praying for good weather – 45- to 50-degree temperatures for asphalt,” he says.

The roundabout will be the southern entrance into the Village at Avon, where The Home Depot and Wal-Mart are set to open stores next year. If the roundabout is complete, the stores may open soon after the slopes close in April. If not, the stores may not open until mid-summer.

Village at Avon workers also are building a new bridge to cross the Eagle River into the shopping complex. But that work – because it’s mostly concrete – can continue during the winter, Peterson says.

Keith Powers, resident engineer in the valley for the Colorado Department of Transportation, says the agency is closely monitoring the roundabout work.

“We’re trying to keep it safe; we’re following what they’re doing,” Powers says. “We want to make sure they get constructed correctly.”

If the roundabout isn’t finished, there will still be two lanes of traffic open on Highway 6, Peterson says.

“Basically, what you see is how it will be – except with snow on it,” Peterson says.

The “half-diamond’ interchange definitely will not be finished before ski season, Powers says.

“The concrete barriers will stay, but we’ll try to move them back,” Powers says.

Workers have already leveled ground for the eastbound on-ramp and the westbound off-ramp that will comprise the interchange, but no paving has occurred. Construction will probably stop around Dec. 1, Powers says.

The bus-stop on the south side on Highway 6 just east of the intersection with Eagle Road will remain closed throughout the winter, Migchelbrink says.

CDOT also will install flashing school zone signals to slow drivers down to 25 mph as they pass the Eagle Valley Christian Academy, she says.

In between the two projects, CDOT is installing a traffic light at the intersection of Highway 6 and Stone Creek Drive. The light is part of a series of safety improvements CDOT agreed to make to placate some Eagle-Vail residents who are opposed to the interchange.

“It’s in the process being installed. They’re out there working on foundations,” Powers says. “It takes about two months to get it up and running, but it’s all weather-dependent.

“I don’t know if it will be activated,” he adds, “but if you see poles go in the ground, you know we’re making progress.”

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.

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