State Route 145 and 149 in Colorado
State Route 145 in Colorado
State Route 145, commonly known as State Highway 145 or SH 145 is a state route in the U.S. state of Colorado. The road forms a north-south route in the southwest of the state, from Cortez through Telluride to Naturita. SH 145 is 187 kilometers long.
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The Lizard Head Pass (3116 m).
SH 145 south of Telluride.
SH 145 begins on the east side of the town of Cortez at an intersection with US 160. The road first heads north through a densely populated valley, the first part of SH 145 is a five-lane road with a center turn lane. The road gradually rises from 1,800 to 2,100 meters until Dolores. SH 145 leads east and northeast from Dolores through a deepening canyon in the Uncompahgre Plateau, gradually merging into the Rocky Mountains, turning the canyon into a deep valley with higher mountains all around. SH 142 then leads through the San Juan Range, a high mountain range with numerous peaks between 4,000 and 4,300 meters. The road leads over the 3,116 m high Lizard Head Pass. The mountain village of Ophir can be reached via a side road.
One then reaches the spectacular mountain area around Telluride. Telluride has one of the highest roundabouts in the United States at 2,600 meters above sea level. The road takes you past Telluride Regional Airport, the highest commercial airport in North America. All around Telluride is a wide panorama of four-thousanders. From Telluride, SH 145 heads west through a canyon, following the road for over 20 miles, before SH 145 rises abruptly out of the canyon, continuing west across a plateau to SH 141 near Naturita.
SH 145 is one of the original 1920s state highways. The road then ran from the then US 450 in Dolores to Naturita, via Telluride. In 1938, SH 145 was extended from Dolores south to Cortez. By 1947, the first two sections were paved, between Cortez and Dolores and from Placerville to Norwood. The road was further paved in the 1950s and early 1960s. The last part at Rico was paved in the late 1960s.
In 1954, a spur of SH 145 was created to Telluride, which is just to the east of the road itself. In the mid-1990s, this spur was handed over to the county government, but is still the only access road to Telluride from the rest of Colorado.
In the late 1800s, Telluride grew into a regional center for mining. It was by far the largest town in the region at the time, significantly larger than Cortez. Telluride’s population has seen ups and downs, but has been growing again since the 1970s due to its winter sports opportunities. Since the 1950s, however, Cortez has been the largest town on the route.
On May 24, 2019, a landslide occurred with large boulders rolling over State Highway 145 near Dolores. One 1,000-ton boulder has been blown up, but another 4,000-ton boulder was deemed too big to blow up, after which the road around it was diverted. The road repair cost $1.3 million and lasted until mid-July 2019.
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Every day, 8,000 vehicles drive in Cortez, dropping to 5,000 vehicles in Dolores and 2,000 vehicles over the Lizard Head Pass. This rises to 7,500 vehicles at Telluride. The part west of Telluride usually has 1,000 to 2,000 vehicles per day.
State Route 149 in Colorado
State Route 149, commonly known as State Highway 149 or SH 149 is a state route in the U.S. state of Colorado. The road forms a north-south route in the southwest of the state, running from South Fork through sparsely populated mountainous areas to near Gunnison. The road runs over the 3,514 meter high Slumgullion Pass. SH 149 is 189 kilometers long.
SH 149 near Lake City.
Slumgullion Pass/Summit (3514 m).
SH 149 begins in the village of South Fork on US 160 and then follows the Rio Grande to the northwest. The valley of the Rio Grande is sparsely populated, with some scattered houses, but few real places. The valley is several kilometers wide and lies at an altitude of 2,500 to 2,700 meters. The area has mountain ranges with peaks above 4,000 meters. SH 149 makes a major S-turn through the region, following the valley of the Rio Grande. The road starts to ascend at the end of the valley to the 3,514 meter high Slumgullion Pass. The mountain pass is not so difficult to drive on the south side, but is very steep on the north side for American standards. One descends to the village of Lake City which lies at 2,600 meters. North of Lake City, SH 149 leads through a sparsely populated valley that flows north into a 25-kilometer-wide valley of the Gunnison River. West of the town of Gunnison, SH 149 ends at US 160.
SH 149 is one of the original 1920s state highways. The road was mainly paved in the 1950s and 1960s.
The road is special because of the relatively long length for a state highway and the fact that it does not cross other state highways despite its length. The road leads through a very sparsely populated area, on the route there are only three villages, with scattered buildings in the valley of the Rio Grande. However, SH 149 has some through importance as it is one of the few through roads in the region.
SH 149 is generally lightly driven, with mostly 500 to 1,000 vehicles per day. The part through the valley of the Rio Grande is slightly busier with 1,000 to 2,000 vehicles.