FHWA Picks Upgrade Plan

Fri October 25, 2002 - West Edition

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has announced its selection of a plan to upgrade Guanella Pass Road in Colorado. The selection represents the agency’s preference from among six alternatives it has developed over 11 years of study and meetings with stakeholders, and is part of a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) recently released to the public.

FHWA must wait 30 days from the Sept. 27 issuance of the FEIS before it can render a final decision. Due to the scope of public interest in the project, the agency has added an additional 30 days, during which it will continue to receive and consider public comment. The extension delays a final decision until November at the earliest.

Extending about 23 mi. (37 km) from Georgetown in Clear Creek County south to Grant in Park County, Guanella Pass Road was built in the 1950s. Alternative 6, the plan FHWA prefers, “minimizes full reconstruction yet improves safety, enhances the environment, and reduces maintenance,” the agency said in a prepared statement.

According to FHWA, it has reduced the design of the project so that the improved portion closely follows the existing road to minimize impact on “previously undisturbed areas.”

Under the plan, FHWA would build a 7th Street Bridge in Georgetown to reduce the impact that construction would have on local traffic and businesses.

About 63 percent of road improvements would entail rehabilitation of the existing roadway. Approximately 18 percent would involve light reconstruction within previously disturbed areas of the existing roadway, and nearly 19 percent would involve full reconstruction, in which work would extend outside the existing roadway.

FHWA Administrator Mary Peters characterized the plan as an example of a transportation project development philosophy called “context-sensitive design.”

The approach aims to involve all stakeholders in developing a transportation facility that fits its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic and environmental resources while maintaining safety and mobility.