Summit County plans safety updates for Swan Mountain Road |

Summit County plans safety updates for Swan Mountain Road

An engineering analysis will detail construction recommendations

Summit County is seeking to do an engineering analysis of Swan Mountain Road, one of the busiest roadways in the county.
Tripp Fay/For the Summit Daily News

One of Summit County’s most critical roadways could get important updates in the coming years.

According to the Summit County Road and Bridge Department, the county is looking for a roadway engineering analysis and design services for Swan Mountain Road, which connects the Snake River basin to the Upper Blue basin. It is also one of the most heavily traveled roads in the county.

Part of the analysis will include studies to determine how many people use the road every day — a calculation that has not been done since 2006, said Robert Jacobs, Summit County engineer and Road and Bridge Department director. In May 2006, about 3,000 vehicles used Swan Mountain Road, which Jacobs said is on the low end, considering that May sits between ski season and the busy summer months.

“This has been somewhat in the works for a couple of years,” Jacobs said. “Swan Mountain Road is due to be reconstructed over the next few years, and given the investment that it’ll require, we want to take a step back and take a holistic look at it.”

Other parts of the analysis will include a prioritized list of improvements that would decrease current risks along the road as well as information about how difficult it would be to make those improvements.

“(After the analysis is done), we’ll review the findings and start to develop the construction plans over the next few years,” he said. “Then, we’ll try to identify funding sources if there are any that apply besides the departmental budget.”

Jacobs said the department repairs guard rails on Swan Mountain Road pretty much every year, and the last asphalt service work was done in 2011. Other maintenance projects were done in the past 15 years, but Jacobs said the analysis would potentially be the first step toward a larger project to extend the life of the road, if approved by the Summit Board of County Commissioners.

“I’ll be recommending a full surface reconstruction at a minimum, and there may be other improvements that may be feasible,” Jacobs said.

Summit County contains multiple arterial highways that are heavily traveled every day. Several of those are maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation. Those include Interstate 70 between the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels and the top of Vail Pass, Colorado Highway 9 between Hoosier Pass and the north end of Green Mountain Reservoir, U.S. Highway 6 between the top of Loveland Pass and the intersection of I-70 and Highway 9 in Silverthorne, and Colorado Highway 91 between the top of Fremont Pass and the intersection with I-70 near Copper Mountain Resort. Swan Mountain Road, though, is managed by the county.

“That’s the main driver of why we are taking a step back and looking at the road because it is such a critical county connection,” Jacobs said.

The arterial highway was originally constructed in the 1960s by Denver Water as a replacement for the highway connections that were interrupted by the construction of Dillon Reservoir. Summit County government does not possess any original design documents from the construction of the road, and it suspects that no such documents exist, according to the request for proposal, which aims to find an engineering team that can review the design and safety of Swan Mountain Road.

The team chosen to take on the project would also be able to provide guidance on where “design deficiencies” are most likely to be correctable. According to the proposal, times of heavy traffic in the past have put a strain on the road’s infrastructure.

“In 2011, the Denver Water Board and local authorities restricted truck travel across the Dillon Dam Road, leaving I-70 and Swan Mountain Road as the only two truck routes around the Dillon Reservoir,” the proposal reads. “This led to a significant increase in truck traffic across Swan Mountain Road, accelerating the roadway’s deterioration and increases in conflicts between trucks and other users.”

In November, the U.S. Forest Service began seeking public comment regarding its Swan Mountain integrated resource management plan, which focused on a variety of projects aiming to improve ecosystem health and the visitor experience. Those potential projects were planned to include a mixture of fuels reduction, trail enhancements and improvements to wildlife habitat, stream hydrology and transportation.

According to the request, the work to complete the analysis would happen in May or June of this year, but a proposed schedule would be approved with an applicant’s proposal. Construction or other projects that are decided as a result of the analysis would happen in the next few years, Jacobs said.

“We want to make sure we’re making the right investment and taking the time to do it correctly,” Jacobs said.

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