Nearly 200 miles long and 20 years in the making
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Ports-to-Plains Alliance celebrated the grand opening of U.S. 40/287 through the Town of Kit Carson at a ribbon cutting ceremony today, signifying the completion of the Ports-to-Plains Corridor on its original alignment in Colorado.
“It is exciting to see the completion of the final Ports-to-Plains project in Colorado,” said Division Administrator for the FHWA in Colorado, John Cater. “This is a vital freight corridor which will provide long-term economic benefits for Colorado and all the states along the corridor.”
U.S. 287 between the Oklahoma border (including U.S. 40 between Limon and Kit Carson) and Denver is Colorado’s portion of the Ports-to-Plains route. As one of Colorado’s 28 Strategic Transportation Projects primarily funded by voter-approved TRANS (Transportation Anticipation Notes) bonds in 1999, its reconstruction was of primary importance due to its current and future use as a major truck route, its connection to Mexico and potential to attract and serve markets associated with NAFTA and international trade.
“We started this nearly 200 mile reconstruction more than 20 years ago and I want to thank all the motorists and local residents who’ve used this route for their patience while we’ve built a new highway,” said CDOT Chief Engineer Tim Harris. “Since the Ports-to-Plains route is considered crucial for national, state and local economic development, reconstructing the highway with wider shoulders throughout to accommodate commercial truck traffic was vital for improving safety, as well as for current and future travel requirements. CDOT has been looking forward to reaching this milestone.”
CDOT has reconstructed 24 segments of U.S. 40/287 between the Oklahoma border and Limon since 1991 (see attached corridor map below). Those reconstructions, in most instances, have consisted of removing the existing asphalt roadway, replacing it with concrete, and upgrading it to a “super-two” configuration – a wider, two-lane highway, with occasional passing lanes and wider shoulders.
The current project, which began in October 2011, reconstructed 2.3-miles of highway with concrete through Kit Carson and west one mile. The $5.8-million project included new street lights, sidewalks, curbs and gutter and an improved storm water system. It also rebuilt the intersection with State Highway 59.
“The completion of this Strategic Project demonstrates Colorado’s commitment to improving the Ports-to-Plains Corridor,” said Vice President of Operations for the Ports-to-Plains Alliance Joe Kiely. “This route provides an alternative for trucks to the congested Interstate 25 corridor while benefiting the economy of rural Colorado.”
Ports-to-Plains runs along various highways between Laredo, Texas, and Denver and is designated a National Highway System “High-priority corridor” by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, one of 80 routes or groups of routes nationally. Nearly 1,400 miles long, the corridor consists of 511 miles of four to six-lane roadways, 755 miles of two-lane highway, and 113 miles of roadway in metropolitan areas.
With the amount of truck traffic on U.S. 40/287 through eastern Colorado, reconstruction was required to meet the “High Priority” standard for Ports-to-Plains. Large truck traffic averages 30 to 50% on the route, with some segments averaging nearly 60%.
The Ports-to-Plains segment in Lamar currently runs through the city but that alignment is expected to change. CDOT and the FHWA intend to complete an Environmental Assessment by the end of 2012 for a potential 9.7-mile truck reliever route, just east of Lamar.
I-70 between Limon and Denver, the last segment of Ports-to-Plains, is built to standard and has undergone various improvements, such as concrete panel replacement, over the past 20 years.