The Grandview Interchange, which is part of the U.S. 160 east of Durango project, occurred in three phases from 2008 to 2011. The project included the widening of a 2/3-mile section, the construction of 4 bridges, 6 retaining walls, a shared-use path, and an interchange.
Project Type:Interchange Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:26,000 Length (mi):0.67
Economic Distress:0.61 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):29 Population Growth Rate (%):1.30
Employment Growth Rate (%):3.36 Market Size:27,144 Airport Travel Distance:9.2 Topography:21
Region:Rocky Mountain / Far West State:CO County:La Plata County
City:Durango Urban/Class Level:Rural Local Area:City N/A
Impact Area:Local Area Transportation System:N/A GIS Lat/Long:37.221706 / -107.846241
Initial Study Date:2007 Post Constr. Study Date:2016
Constr. Start Date:2008 Constr. End Date:2011
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 2011 Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):46,700,000 Actual Cost (curr $):48,226,580
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
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NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
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U.S. 160 is an east-west route traveling through the Midwestern United States. In Colorado, this route is the only principal east-west highway that crosses the state; it serves the region known as Four Corners, where Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico intersect. The Grandview Interchange project, which is part of a project to widen U.S. 160 east of Durango to four lanes, occurred in three phases from 2008 to 2011. The project included the widening of a 2/3-mile section of US 160, the construction of four bridges, six retaining walls, a shared-use path, and an interchange. The total project cost was $48,226,580 (in 2013 dollars). The primary motivation for this project was to provide increased safety and capacity as well as improved access to U.S. 160. The project was also constructed in part to improve access to area development, including a new regional medical center and housing complexes.
To date, the Grandview Interchange project alone has not resulted in any new jobs within the corridor. Growth specifically related to this project has been slow, in part due to a lack of connectivity to nearby development. More recent projects have led to an improvement to this connectivity, including the construction of Wilson Gulch Road, a four-lane arterial opened in 2016, which connects the Grandview Interchange with a major residential development and a regional hospital. Additionally, a supplemental final environmental impact statement (SFEIS) for the U.S. 550 South Connection to U.S. 160 was signed in May 2015, which approves a revised realignment of U.S. 550 and its connection to U.S. 160 via the Grandview Interchange. Once completed, this realignment will increase connectivity to the City of Durango. These transportation investments, in conjunction with the Grandview Interchange, may help spur future development.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
U.S. 160 in Colorado travels east-west and traverses the entire state. The highway enters Colorado from Kansas just east of Walsh, Colorado and travels west to the Four Corners Monument at the intersection of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, where it exits the state. In La Plata County, U.S. 160 travels through the City of Durango, where it overlaps with U.S. 550, a spur of U.S. 50 that runs north-south from Colorado to New Mexico. The nearest interstates within Colorado are I-25, approximately 200 miles east via U.S. 160, and I-70, about 175 miles north via U.S. 550. The Durango-La Plata County Airport, which is served by United Airlines and American Airlines, is situated to the southeast of the City of Durango, approximately 9.2 miles from the Grandview Interchange.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
This case study focuses on the portion of U.S. 160 east of the City of Durango. The city of Durango is the county seat and most populous area in the county. The population of La Plata County in 2015 was 53,182, an increase from 48,733 in 2007 (+9%), the year prior to the construction of the Grandview Interchange. In 2015, the per capita income in La Plata County was $51,475, an increase from $40,977 in 2007 (+25.6%). Over this same period, the income per capita in Colorado increased from $41,996 to $52,059 (+23.9%). The total employment in La Plata County increased from 38,846 in 2007 to 40,032 in 2016 (+3%); the employment growth rate of La Plata County was less than the employment growth rate for the state, which increased by 9%, from 2,568,079 in 2007 to 2,794,394 in 2016
Most of the land within the project area is classified as agricultural or rural residential. Historically, the land use in the Grandview area was primarily agricultural but has evolved to include residential, as well as some light industrial, and commercial uses. The area was originally developed for resource extraction, such as minerals, timber, and ranching. The oil and gas industry remains the largest industry in the area to date; the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission identifies 34 active wells in La Plata County and three active operators in Durango. The Grandview Area Plan, published in 2004, indicated that there were 17 gas wells and 12 drilling windows in the immediate area of Grandview.
Tourism activity is high in this area. The intersection of east-west U.S. 160 and north-south U.S. 550 carries travelers through the area, primarily to destinations in Utah and New Mexico. The environmental impact statement (EIS) reports that this tourism traffic increases overall traffic in the area by 50% in the summer months.
According to the EIS, the Grandview Interchange project was completed primarily to increase travel efficiency and capacity, and to improve safety and control access. The EIS noted that the population “increased substantially from 1980 to 2000” and is expected to continue growing. The population of La Plata County in 2015 was 53,182. By 2025, the population is anticipated to reach 74,464, with much of this development along the U.S. 160 corridor. Additionally, the EIS indicated that prior to the completion of this project, U.S. 160 had accident rates that were “higher than the statewide average for comparable roadways” in terms of both number and severity. The EIS points to uncontrolled access, among other factors, as the cause.
Construction of the project occurred in three phases, the first of which began in July of 2008. This initial phase included the widening of U.S. 160, adding a 2/3-mile lane in the westbound direction through Grandview, partial construction of a new interchange with U.S. 550, and construction of four interchange bridges and six retaining walls. This phase was completed in September 2010. The second phase of construction began in September 2009 and was completed in May 2010. This phase included construction of the on-ramp to eastbound U.S. 160. The final phase began in April 2011 and included U.S. 160 ramp tie-ins, construction of an adjacent shared-use path to support non-motorized vehicles and pedestrian traffic, and completion of the interchange. This phase was completed in November 2011. The total cost of construction for all project phases was $48,226,580 (in 2013 dollars).
4.1 Transportation Impacts
The Grandview Interchange is part of the US 160 east of Durango project, which will add lanes on US 160 and connect U.S. 550 and U.S. 160; the Grandview Interchange project was the first portion of the scope of work indicated in the U.S. 160 Corridor Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Subsequent phases of the U.S. 160 Corridor project, specifically the connection of U.S. 160 to U.S. 550, have been delayed due to a needed realignment to avoid a recently constructed gas well and subsequent conflicts with several ranches on the National Register of Historic Places. The Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement for this new alignment was approved in May 2015. The Grandview Interchange currently ties into U.S. 550 via a signalized intersection at Farmington Hill. In 2016, the AADT at this intersection was 26,000, a slight increase from 24,700 in 2007, the year prior to construction.
Phases of the Grandview Interchange were completed as funding became available, but the actual connection to U.S. 550 has not yet been completed. Due to the incomplete connections to U.S. 550 and area development, this interchange and associated bridges have been referred to by the public as the “Bridge to Nowhere.” Some of this tension has been relieved by the construction of Wilson Gulch Drive and the connections it provides. The Wilson Gulch Drive project was completed in 2016 and provides direct connectivity from the Grandview Interchange to Mercy Medical Center and Three Springs, a residential development northwest of the interchange. Interviewees indicate that prior to this project, most people accessing the medical center utilized a separate intersection from the Grandview Interchange, as the interchange did not provide direct access to the hospital. The intersection project is generally seen as a necessary improvement when viewed in the context of the U.S. 160 Corridor improvements and future connection to U.S. 550.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
The City of Durango planned area development in conjunction with the annexation of the Grandview area. As a part of this annexation and planned development, the regional medical center, Mercy Medical Center, completed construction in June of 2006, prior to construction of the Grandview Interchange project. Direct access from the interchange to the hospital was not possible until the completion of Wilson Gulch Drive in 2016. Mercy Medical Center is southwest Colorado’s largest medical facility and has a total of 800 full-time and part-time employees. The Grandview Area Plan identifies several other planned developments, including an estimated 5,467 housing units, schools, and other amenities. Currently, 200 residential units have been built in the Three Springs community, out of 2,000 planned. Interviewees have acknowledged that the initial impact of the development has been slow, in part attributable to the Great Recession of 2008. As mentioned previously, limited connectivity to area development and employment centers have also contributed to the lack of growth associated with these transportation improvements. To date, no new jobs can be attributed to the project.
The Great Recession of 2008 negatively impacted the development that was expected after project completion. However, this was just one factor that affected the project impacts. Limited connectivity to area development and employment centers also contributed to the lack of growth associated with the Grandview Interchange project. Additionally, delays due to conflict with residents and the placement of gas wells have led to the delay of the balance of the US 160 Corridor Improvements project, which has stalled the development expected from the Grandview Interchange. No specific policies or incentives were in place to encourage development.
Name, Title, Organization
Damian Peduto, Community Development Director, La Plata County
Jill Seyfarth, Consultant/Owner, Cultural Resource Planning
Kevin Hall, Community Development Director, City of Durango
Tony Cady, Planning and Environmental Manager, Region 5, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT)
Ed Archuleta, Program Engineer, Region 5, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT)
Patrick Morrissey, Regional Vice President, Three Springs
Case Study Developed by University of Maryland