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The Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners took an important step toward reconstructing Piedra Road last Friday with the approval of an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between Archuleta County and the Colorado Department of Transportation.
While not the final go-ahead needed to put the project out to bid, the IGA is a significant step forward for the county.
Because Piedra Road is being paid for primarily with federal funds through a $3.5 million grant from Public Lands Highway (PLH) discretionary funding by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), CDOT is administering the grant.
The county received the grant in August 2012, also pledging $500,000 of county money to reconstruct a portion of Piedra Road, making for a total of $4 million for the project.
Since August, county staff has worked to put an IGA in place between the county and CDOT and to gain all needed clearances (such as environmental clearance, on which the county is still waiting) to put the project out for bid, with a hope of construction taking place this summer.
It is anticipated that about 3.5 miles of the road will be reconstructed due to federal regulations that must be applied to the project.
On Tuesday, Ken Feyen, county public works director, characterized the IGA as “boiler-plate,” noting that he provided a technical review of the document, while Todd Starr, county attorney, provided a legal review of the agreement.
In a timeline previously provided to SUN staff, Feyen said he hoped the county would be able to put the project out for bid in May, with Feyen projecting a mid-July construction start should everything associated with the project progress according to plan.
While the county will allow 120 days for the contract time to complete the project, Feyen anticipated the bulk of the work would take 60-90 days due to the need to detour traffic from Piedra Road and any weather interferences, as well as other variables.
Reconstruction of the road will begin at the cattle guard identifying the boundary between the county road and forest service road (where the pavement ends near Hatcher Lake) and work south toward U.S. 160.
The plan is to have the chosen construction firm mill up the existing pavement on the road, mix it with a soil stabilizer (such as concrete or lime) and re-lay it. A total of five inches of asphalt would then be laid over the top of the reclaimed, stronger base pavement. That process is known as full-depth reclamation.
According to the project narrative, work will include reconstructing the subgrade (as above) and widening travel lanes to a uniform 12 feet. Feyen added that gravel shoulders will be added to each side of the roadway.
Feyen estimated that the grant would allow for the reconstruction of the road to the area of Steven’s Lake Road.
Piedra Road is considered a federal forest highway, and is the most-traveled county road in Archuleta County, according to county staff.
The project narrative submitted with the grant application states: “Approximately 348,000 acres of the San Juan National Forest, of which 100,000 acres are wilderness, are accessed via CR 600, FS 631 (Piedra Road). Piedra Road is the connecting link between US Hwy. 160 and this area of the San Juan National Forest and is the most heavily traveled route in the Pagosa Ranger District.”
The narrative continues to note that the road is the only connection the residents of southern Hinsdale County have to a full-service community, and estimates that 75,000-100,000 visitors per year use the road for recreational reasons.
In addition to recreation, the narrative notes grazing, timber, firewood gathering and biomass operations that take place within the San Juan National Forest.
With that heavy use, the condition of Piedra Road has deteriorated to the point of permanent “road damage” signs being installed.
The county recently applied for another federal grant in attempts to be able to reconstruct an additional portion of the road in future years.