New route to divert trucks around Delta
DELTA—Truck traffic can get so noisy on Delta’s main drag that residents sometimes have to shout through a conversation. Others worry about the threat to public safety in north Delta when emergency vehicles traveling from the south end of U.S. Highway 50 get caught waiting for any of the roughly dozen trains that lumber along the rails each day. Delays for trains can back up traffic to the Gunnison River Bridge, and long lines of stalled traffic foul the air outside downtown businesses.
Those issues won’t always plague Delta, however, as the city broke ground Friday on a 1.6-mile truck route designed to skirt downtown.
“This is Delta’s biggest capital construction project ever,” Delta Public Works Director Jim Hatheway said. “This is what guys like me live for.”
A truck route for Delta has been on the city’s radar for the past 60 years. Voters in 2009 approved a $23 million bond to be paid off with 1 percent of sales tax revenue.
Construction will begin slowly through the end of the month as general contractor Hamon Contractors works to locate utilities, prep the site for work and hire hundreds of employees, Hatheway said.
The city also has some loose ends to tie up, he said, including finalizing permits with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state of Colorado and Union Pacific Railroad.
However, most structures in the route’s path have been demolished and the final touches have been put on designs, he said. The project is expected to be completed within a year to 15 months.
Confluence Drive, a four-lane road, will have an overpass with two new bridges, one over First Street and another over the railroad tracks with a pedestrian crossing underneath.
The new route is intended to divert trucks to the west of Delta’s Main Street, which also is U.S. Highway 50. Traffic from the north will travel around City Market and run parallel to a set of realigned railroad tracks, eventually exiting near The Stockyard restaurant on the south side of town.
Other improvements include a traffic signal and realignment of a tricky intersection at U.S. Highway 50 and Gunnison River Drive. And, a railroad crossing at Colorado Highway 348 will be remade, creating a safer crossing for motorists.
Delta City Council member Mary Cooper said she ran for election most recently because she wanted to help push through the long-awaited project. As a resident of Delta for 23 years and a member of the council for the past seven, Cooper said she is delighted construction finally is beginning.
“I have worked so hard and so long on this. It’s pretty personal,” she said. “Trust me, there’s people in town that don’t think we should be doing it. I just think it’s going to be so good for everybody.”
Some Delta residents are critical of the bypass, claiming it will reroute tourists from the city’s downtown core. Others are concerned about the project’s $26 million price tag, Cooper said.
Delta city officials maintain the route will lure truck traffic away but won’t redirect most other motorists. They claim the new road was specifically designed not to completely bypass the city, like a reroute that was created for the town of Olathe.
Gynee Thomasson, who with her husband, Scott, own Classic Computers, 248 Main St., isn’t so sure the truck route won’t take business away from downtown. Thomasson won’t mind seeing fewer large trucks on the main drag, but she’s concerned about other effects of the new route.
“I wouldn’t say I’m freaked out but it’s a real concern for business owners,” she said.
According to the city, 1,260 trucks traveled on U.S. Highway 50 per day in 2006. The city estimates that by 2035, the downtown would have 900 trucks a day with a truck route and 2,250 a day without one.
Apart from the bond measure, the city received $2.8 million in a Department of Local Affairs grant, a $100,000 contribution from Delta County and $150,000 from Union Pacific Railroad.
Funds to construct the road were created without an increase in taxes.
City officials are pleased that Hamon Contractors has assured the city it will hire as many qualified local residents and businesses as possible to complete the project. A local gravel pit will provide materials to create the road surface.
Delta recently passed an ordinance setting a preference for local work and local companies when deciding on awarding bids for capital projects.
Delta’s truck route project currently is the largest road construction project slated to begin in the area. Grand Junction wrapped up its 29 Road overpass project last year.
Denver-based Hamon Contractors will use a combination of its employees and Western Slope workers and subcontractors, according to a news release.