Detours begin April 19th – Delta County to see increased Traffic on Hwy 92
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), American Civil Constructors West Coast (ACC) and the Central Federal Lands Highway Division (FHWA-CFLHD) announced that the Hwy 50 Little Blue Creek Canyon Safety Project between mile posts 123-127 will start the week of April 19th. As this project will detour local traffic traveling between Montrose and Gunnison daily on US Hwy 50 over CO Hwy 92 through Delta County, we want to share an update for local residents and businesses on expected impacts to Delta County.
What is the Little Blue Creek Safety Project and Why the Closures?
CDOT and Central Federal Lands Highway Division are working together to fund significant highway improvements to Little Blue Canyon on US 50 between Montrose and Gunnison. The project is the result of a partnership with the FHWA-CFLHD and CDOT. Funding for the $40 million project is provided by a $20 million grant from the Colorado Federal Lands Access Program with CDOT providing a matching $20 million. The project is also in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.
The overall goal of the project is to improve safety along US Hwy 50 in the project area and realign the road, widen the highway to two (2) 12-foot travel lanes with 4-foot wide shoulders. To do this, the contractor, will have to complete rock fall mitigation work and blasting through the construction zone which requires closures of US 50. Due to the rock mitigation and blasting activities in the Little Blue Canyon area, US 50 must be closed to all vehicle traffic during these times.
How Does Construction on US 50 by Blue Mesa Affect Delta County?
The required closure of US Hwy 50 overnight (M-F) and during the daytime (M-F) will lead to significant traffic delays on Hwy 50 and detour passenger vehicle traffic, small trucks and trailers/commercial vehicles up to 70 feet in length over CO Hwy 92 via Black Mesa through the towns of Crawford, Hotchkiss, and Delta. This means that traffic which normally takes Hwy 50 to travel between Gunnison and Montrose daily will have to instead travel Hwy 92 or wait in line at the closure until the next time the road opens.
Local residents, business owners and travelers on Hwy 92 should expect increased traffic on Hwy 92 through Delta County between April and October on weekdays, Monday thru Friday. US 50 will be open to two lane traffic without delays starting at 5:30 pm every Friday night until 8:30 am on Monday mornings. Due to US 50 being open on the weekends, we do not anticipate extra traffic on Saturdays or Sundays during this project.
What is the Detour Route? What About Hazardous Materials and Oversize Vehicles?
When US Hwy 50 is closed, local passenger vehicles and small trucks can use Colorado Hwy 92 as a local detour route. All trucks and recreation vehicles OVER 70 feet in length must use I-70 to the north, US 160 to the south; or wait for one of the planned openings as shown on the chart. Motorists traveling between Montrose and Gunnison should allow additional time due to the detour and restricted open times on Hwy 50.
VEHICLES CARRYING HAZARDOUS MATERIALS OR OVER 70 FEET IN LENGTH WILL NOT BE ALLOWED ON HWY 92. The designated Hazardous material routes are I-70 and US 160 or vehicles will have to wait for the openings on US Hwy 50.
Impacts to Delta County
At this time it is unknown how many vehicles will travel Hwy 92 daily but we do expect at least a 10% increase in traffic on Hwy 92, possibly more as we head into the summer months. There will likely be additional trucks pulling trailers, RVs and tourists traveling Hwy 92 that could lead to traffic backups and delays. Additionally, additional traffic is expected to cause congestion at intersections along Hwy 92 between Crawford and Delta, including the “Y” at Hwy 92 and Hwy 133 in Hotchkiss.
We ask that all residents, business owners and travelers on Hwy 92 be patient and be attentive to your surroundings and traffic on the road and practice defensive driving to minimize accidents. Drivers should be aware of the potential for turning vehicles, slow traffic, rough road surfaces, wildlife, loose livestock and other hazards along Hwy 92. We also ask motorists to report aggressive/reckless drivers and or suspected drunk drivers to dispatch at 970-874-2015 or 9-1-1. The Sheriff’s Office and Colorado State Patrol will be providing additional patrols on Hwy 92 during the duration of the detour.
As traffic increases on Hwy 92 and drivers not familiar with Hwy 92 are traveling the road, there is the potential for more vehicle accidents. Local fire, EMS, hospital, law enforcement, emergency management and elected officials have been working on response plans and ways to minimize the impacts of this detour since the project was announced in 2019. Local first responders are trained to respond to a variety of incidents and this project and detour will be no different.
First responders from across Delta County have been and continue to work with state, federal and neighboring Montrose and Gunnison County agencies to ensure adequate resources are available to respond to any emergencies which may arise along Hwy 92 during this project.