Parachute will get second interchange

Construction could begin in about 18 months on a west Interstate 70 interchange at Parachute, marking the culmination of a yearslong struggle to get a second access into the town that is at the heart of the state’s natural gas industry.

“By 2012, we’ll be moving dirt” on the project, Garfield County Manager Ed Green said.

Agreements among state agencies, Garfield County and the town of Parachute cleared the way for officials to start work on the project, which is estimated to cost about $30 million, according to Green and Parachute Town Manager Bob Knight.

Key to the agreement was the commitment by the Colorado Department of Transportation of $6 million toward the project, Knight said.

Now, and especially during the height of the natural gas boom, energy-industry vehicles headed to Piceance Basin gas fields clogged the existing interchange, prompting officials to worry that an interchange-closing accident could leave the town without access to emergency vehicles.

Parachute is using its money along with funding from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to extend Parachute Park Boulevard to the west to accommodate the new interchange, which will be built west of the town. That project is out to bid, and the town expects to select a vendor the week of July 12, Knight said. The successful bidder will have until July of next year to complete the project, “but we expect this may be completed in a much shorter time period,” Knight said.

Garfield County will manage the project and officials working with the Transportation Department will select an engineering firm.

The Transportation Department is to obtain the necessary right of way and coordinate the relocation of utilities in the area, as well as be responsible for the actual construction of the interchange.

Knight said Williams Cos. and EnCana, two natural gas producers active in the Piceance Basin, have contributed to the project.


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