Officials from the Colorado Department of Transportation and Schmidt and Hamilton construction companies broke ground June 24 on an $11.5 million effort to repave seven miles of U.S. 24. The project will also improve bridges and one intersection along the stretch.

A pothole-riddled stretch of U.S. 24 on Colorado Springs’ West Side has been held together “with duct tape and bailing wire,” state highway Maintenance Supervisor Brad Bauer likes to say.

So far this year, his crew has spent about 230 hours on the seven miles of the highway west of Eighth Street. They’ve poured about 20 tons of asphalt to patch craters in the roadway and prayed that a wet spring wouldn’t breach the pavement again, said Bauer, who manages the Colorado Department of Transportation’s maintenance work in El Paso County.

Now relief has come for Bauer’s team.

Local and state transportation officials celebrated groundbreaking June 24 on an $11.5 million project to repave the segment of U.S. 24 from Eighth Street to the Waldo Canyon entrance. Crews also will rehabilitate several bridges along the stretch and upgrade the 21st Street intersection to improve the flow of westbound traffic.

CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew called the project “long overdue” at the ceremony, just south of U.S. 24 near an entrance to Red Rock Canyon Open Space.

More than 40,000 cars travel the stretch each day, but it hasn’t been resurfaced since 2004, CDOT reports.

Crews will remove about 2 inches from the pavement’s surface, replacing it with more than 38,000 tons of fresh asphalt, said CDOT Resident Engineer Dave Watt.

A new traffic signal will be installed at the 21st Street intersection, and structural work will extend the U.S. 24 westbound right turn lane so turning vehicles don’t line up on 21st and block the highway’s westbound through-lanes, Watt said. The highway bridge over Fountain Creek also will get scoured to better protect it.

In addition, crews will repair the decks of highway overpasses that span El Paso Boulevard, Manitou Avenue and Crystal Hills Boulevard and restore the structures’ waterproof membranes, Watt said. The 31st Street bridge, north of U.S. 24, also will get a facelift.

CDOT has contracted with Hamilton and Schmidt construction companies to complete the project. Money from vehicle registration fees and fines, a 22-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax and the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program is paying for the work, said Karen Rowe, transportation director of CDOT’s southeast region.

The resurfacing is expected to be done by the end of this year, but work on the bridges and 21st Street intersection will continue into next year, Watt said.

State transportation officials want to limit traffic impacts during peak travel hours, so work that requires lane closures will take place during the evening and nighttime, from late Sunday through Thursday, Watt said. But drivers will see crews at work behind barriers along the highway in the daytime, too.

“This is going to be a congested area while work is ongoing,” Watt said. “If you can find different routes, that’s great. Allow a little bit more time to get safely to your destination.”

Contact the writer at rachel.riley@gazette.com.

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