Contract approval advances Parachute interchange project

Planners took another step forward Monday on a project that should provide eventual relief for energy workers and others who face backups at Parachute’s only Interstate 70 interchange.

Garfield County commissioners approved a contract of up to $772,700 with PBS&J for engineering and design work on a second interchange just west of town. The county and the Colorado Department of Transportation are working together on the interchange.

Construction of the interchange with U.S. Highway 6 could start late next year and be completed by early 2013, county manager Ed Green said.

The town faced major traffic backups during a natural-gas drilling boom, only to see drilling and truck traffic drop off sharply after the boom ended in 2008. This year, gas development has picked up some, and so has traffic at the interchange.

The eastbound exit ramp at Parachute has been backed up almost onto the freeway during the morning rush hour, Green said. Traffic signals have been installed to try to alleviate the situation, but aren’t a long-term solution.

“It’s kind of a good sign, when you see traffic start backing up, that we’re starting to come out of the pit of the economic thing,” Parachute town manager Robert Knight said.

Energy companies EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. and Williams contributed $300,000 each for the interchange project. Garfield County committed a total of $2.5 million, and the Colorado Department of Transportation is paying $6 million.

The state Department of Local Affairs gave $5.7 million for the interchange.

Knight said another benefit of the new interchange will be commercial development of nearby property. “That will bring some economic stability to Parachute,” he said.

In a related project, the town will build a bypass that will connect U.S. 6 west of town to county Road 215, which heads northwest from Parachute to an area of extensive natural gas development.

Knight said the bypass is scheduled to be completed no later than next July and will remove truck traffic from Parachute Avenue, an area with a senior center, homes and school zones.

The Department of Local Affairs gave $2.3 million in matching funds for the bypass.


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