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FARMINGTON — Motorists planning to travel north of Durango Saturday on U.S. Highway 550 need to leave early, change their route or bring a lawn chair and a good book. Part of the highway threading through the San Juan National Forest will close due to the annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic from 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

The Colorado Department of Transportation today warned drivers to pass through the area north of Durango by 7 a.m. if traveling to Silverton or points north, as closures and traffic redirection efforts start at 7:30 a.m.

At 8:30 a.m., “U.S 550 will be fully closed in both directions between Purgatory Ski Resort and Silverton. The highway will remain open north of Silverton, to Ouray, as always,” the press release states.

Colorado transportation department spokesperson Lisa Schwantes said CDOT works closely with organizers, so the closure timelines should hold.

"This is a huge annual event that that all our locals look forward to," she said.

Race Director Gaige Sippy said Friday via email that there are 2,500 registered riders this year.

At 7 a.m., vehicles traveling on southbound 550 will be diverted to County Road 203 at Hermosa Creek to Animas View Drive, just north of town, the release stated. Northbound traffic from Durango to Purgatory Ski Resort will move along U.S. 550, but with traffic control, under current plans.

Rolling closures start at 7:30 a.m. to accommodate the race’s three separate starts in Durango from downtown near the train depot, north to Animas View Drive, the release states.

Flaggers at a construction zone on Molas Pass about 2 miles south of Silverton will help keep traffic flowing when the bottleneck is removed. The zone narrows the highway to one lane.

Flagging crews will help with surges of traffic before and after the closure, the release states, “but delays of at least 20 minutes should be expected until mid-afternoon on Saturday. For the rest of the weekend, portable traffic signals will be in place to direct traffic through the construction area, and motorists should expect delays of approximately 5 minutes."

Call the project hotline at (970)209-3332 or email the project team at highwayinfocolorado@gmail.com with any questions or concerns. Go to http://bit.ly/2rpmfWf for a list of construction projects or, for the extremely curious, they’re on Twitter via @coloradodot.

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