Highway 13 project nears end

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A 4.7 mile construction project on Highway 13 between Meeker and Rifle is nearing completion. —LUCAS TURNER PHOTO

By LUCAS TURNER | lucas@ht1885.com

RBC | The final sections of concrete were paved last week and the latest iteration of Highway 13 construction is set to conclude on Nov. 23. On Tuesday the HT toured the site with Project Engineer Adam Cornely from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). 

Cornely explained that remaining work includes the construction of a retaining wall in one short section of the road.  

“We were unable to cut the hill back because the powerline is at the very top of the hill, so since we couldn’t provide this mild, mellow-graded cut slope, the barrier goes in,” said Cornely.

On Tuesday crews were already crafting a steel rebar support structure for the retaining wall, which will be made from concrete, the same material used for the 4.7 mile stretch of highway. Cornely noted that concrete pavement is a common road construction material in the state of Colorado, however this project marks the first time it has been used on Highway 13.

“It’s a lower maintenance cost usually, and it lasts longer,” he said when asked about the advantages of concrete versus asphalt. As far as the actual construction goes, Cornely noted that using concrete can add a certain level of complexity.

“When you pave asphalt, you can usually drive on it the same day, as opposed to concrete, when we pave a new section it has to gain a certain level of strength before we allow traffic on it, so it can be more problematic in terms of phasing” he said.

The large volume of concrete needed to complete the project also meant contractors established their own on-site concrete production to help speed up the pavement phases.

The 15-month, $16.9 million project is right on track with it’s original schedule, despite shutting down construction for two full weeks in August, when the Grizzly Creek fire forced an emergency closure of I-70.

Though it was not advertised as an official detour, motorists from around the state were already aware of the Highway 13 route, and many who needed to commute to or from east of Glenwood Canyon used it as a way to keep working.

“That was right at the peak of concrete paving and we told them, you gotta stop until the road opens up in Glenwood Canyon, so it was a big deal. But we worked together and made up the time.” said Cornely.

The highway’s position as a backup route for one of the state’s most active transportation corridors, is part of the reason why it has seen so much construction over the years. But even during normal times the highway sees high levels of truck traffic, which to some degree also justifies state investment and safety improvements, according to Cornely.

He said the work improves safety by widening shoulders and providing good space for motorists to pull off, a feature that is not present along much of the highway, especially on the southern half.

Moving forward, motorists on Highway 13 can still expect traffic impacts including single lane alternating travel. CDOT reminds drivers to pay attention in work zones, obey the posted speed limits and avoid distractions.

To see photos of construction phases and read more about the project, go to codot.gov/projects/co-13-rio-blanco-reconstruction or call the project hotline at 970-309-5894.