CDOT’s Highway 9 Gap Project on schedule to finish Phase I by November
FRISCO — The Colorado Department of Transportation is deep into construction on the Colorado Highway 9 Gap Project, an effort to widen the entire route between Frisco and Breckenridge to two lanes.
As community members begrudgingly move their way through slower traffic, cones and flaggers on the side of the road, officials say the project is making good progress and eventually will pay dividends in reducing congestion.
“This project was really congestion oriented,” said Kevin O’Reilly, CDOT’s project engineer on the Gap Project. “The road goes down to one lane through that small section, so this is really the final piece of the puzzle to make it two lanes all the way through from Breckenridge to I-70.”
In addition to widening the highway, the project also includes the installation of noise walls along Water Dance and Frisco Bay Townhomes neighborhoods, providing an underpass between the Peninsula Recreation Area and the County Commons, and building a roundabout at Water Dance Drive.
Construction on the project began in May, and O’Reilly said builders are on schedule to complete the 2020 phase of the project by the end of October.
The contractor, SEMA Construction, already has removed the existing traffic signal at Water Dance Drive and Highway 9, completed underground drainage and electrical work, and is nearing completion of the noise walls and outside of the roundabout. The first half of the arch that eventually will become the pedestrian underpass also has been built.
Paving of the new lanes began this week. Through Thursday, Aug. 20, workers will be paving half of the new road. On Friday, Aug. 21, traffic will switch over to the new asphalt, which will allow crews to begin working on the second half of the underpass arch and the inside of the roundabout.
“These next couple days may be a little more backed up for traffic due to paving,” O’Reilly said. “And motorists should be prepared for the new traffic alignment and pattern on Friday.”
By November, officials expect everything to be paved, the roundabout to be in place, and the installations of noise walls and the pedestrian underpass to be completed.
Construction will resume in 2021 for the second phase of the project. Once the snow melts and construction season starts next year, CDOT and SEMA Construction will work to complete another roundabout at Eighth Avenue, and realign the Main Street and Highway 9 intersection to create better pedestrian access. CDOT anticipates the project will be completed by the end of October 2021.
Keeping traffic moving
While community members navigate the new roundabout and construction traffic, CDOT is asking drivers to do their best to keep traffic moving and prevent unnecessary delays.
To prevent traffic backups, officials are urging motorists to use the “zipper merge” in construction areas. When there is a lane closed ahead, drivers should continue to drive in both lanes up to the point of the closure and then take turns merging into the open lane.
“People always complain that someone keeps going by in the right lane and snaking their spot,” O’Reilly said. “But that’s how the zipper lane is supposed to work.”
Officials are also hoping to push out reminders for drivers who don’t use roundabouts frequently. When entering a roundabout, drivers should yield to traffic already inside and merge into traffic only when a safe gap is available. Once inside the roundabout, drivers should pay close attention to signage and merging vehicles, and always signal to alert fellow motorists that they’re exiting.
“Sometimes people stop when they’re supposed to go or go when they’re supposed to stop,” O’Reilly said. “So everyone should use caution around the roundabout and make sure they’re doing things right.”
The town of Frisco is hoping to take advantage of CDOT construction to set fiber infrastructure at lower costs.
“We’re laying conduit under the highway at the (pedestrian underpass) location and at Water Dance Drive,” said Vanessa Agee, Frisco’s marketing and communication’s director. “Those were the two locations where we could easily lay conduit, bringing it to the Adventure Park and eventually getting it to that neighborhood.”
Once the conduit is laid, the installation of the actual fiber will be easy once the time is right, Agee said. The idea is to eventually connect into Project Thor at the County Commons. Project Thor is an initiative developed by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments to provide a middle-mile network throughout the area for future fiber connections.
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