Project to serve new retail, hospital By Sarah Mueller Herald staff writer

Durango and La Plata County officials expect ground to break on the Wilson Gulch Road after both governments approved new costs and intergovernmental agreements Tuesday. The estimated $8.7 million Wilson Gulch Road project is intended to serve Three Springs and a large section of Grandview on the north side of U.S. Highway 160. The road extension to the west is expected to give better emergency access to Mercy Regional Medical Center and encourage retail development.“What this really means for Durango is that dirt will be moved in the fall,” Durango Mayor Sweetie Marbury said. “We’re looking at roads going in and infrastructure and a new development – a new commercial development – out there.”The La Plata County commissioners had to approve $22,000 more in design fees to cover its share of design modifications to meet federal environmental guidelines, street lighting and added landscaping.The county agreed to pay half of the design cost and 33.33 percent of the construction costs. The initial estimate of the design was $500,000. The original contract came in lower – $316,000. But then it went up $128,825 to $444,825, and then up an additional $101,405 to $546,230 in April.Commissioner Bobby Lieb said he was in disbelief in 2011 when he heard the initial amount of the design.“If you remember, I was a bit aghast that a three-quarter-mile stretch of road, almost flat on a green space, would cost half a million dollars to design,” he said. “At that time, there were some assurances that it was a gross overestimation, and we would really never get to that.”Durango City Planner Gregg Boysen said the biggest reason for the change was the design of Ewing Mesa Road intersection. Originally, there was no intersection at that road or at Owens Road.The city of Durango was awarded nearly $4.3 million for the project by the Colorado Department of Transportation. That leaves the city paying about $2.6 million for construction, with the county paying about $1.3 million. Durango officials expect to start the bidding process later this year and start construction before the end of the year.In other business, the City Council heard from state officials and elected leaders about two ballot initiatives that could affect water rights for everyone in the state. Douglas Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress, said the two initiatives to amend the Colorado Constitution could damage Colorado’s prior appropriation system for water rights. Prior appropriation is a way of water allocation that controls who uses how much water, the types of uses allowed and when those waters can be used.

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