Expect aggravation if you're thinking of taking Harmony Road in Fort Collins this winter.

That's because the city will close Harmony west of South Timberline Road for almost a week as Union Pacific upgrades its railroad-crossing for Harmony's new lanes.

The intersection already has caused confusion among drivers as barrels have blocked off new lanes for months. Tim Kemp, a capital projects engineer for the city, says he has fielded many phone calls about the continued obstruction of what people assumed was a completed road-widening project.

"It's definitely something that I know is frustrating," Kemp said.

People, of course, wonder why the construction barrels have remained in the new lanes. Turns out, the existing railroad crossing signals only meet standards for the old four-lane configuration. They do not meet the requirements for the new six-lane configuration.

The city had planned to complete the railroad-crossing upgrades this past summer during the road-widening construction. However, the project was delayed because the city and Union Pacific had not completed agreements required to finish the job.

The city and Union Pacific thought they had a solution in mind but the Colorado Public Utilities Commission put the brakes on the railroad-crossing project, Kemp said. So, the city went ahead with the road-widening portion of the construction while leaving the railroad crossing for later.

"We knew that we could get most of the work done except for the crossing," Kemp said.

All this will lead the city to shut down the stretch of Harmony where railroad tracks run across Harmony west of Timberline in February. The shutdown also will allow Union Pacific to replace rails as it also builds a 6-foot-wide bike line on the westbound portion of Harmony.

Funded by a $350,000 federal grant, the new railroad-crossing signals, bike lane and railroad track improvements will be completed by late February. In all, the construction is estimated to last six days.

"As we get a little bit closer, we'll be able to identify and let the public know the exact dates," Kemp said. "There's going to be a lot of outreach and coordination once we get those final dates."

The city will set up detours for motorists, and police will maintain a presence in the area. Motorists also will be able to make U-turns from both sides of the closure to reach businesses in the area. South Timberline Road at its intersection with Harmony will remain open.

Once the project is completed, those orange barrels will be history.


Lifejackets for Labs

Warning to readers: the following item makes use of a few really bad puns.

An aspiring entrepreneur with the right type of manufacturing skills may be able get tails wagging with this one.

A division of the Colorado Department of Agriculture has proposed a rule that would require dogs that swim in pools to wear canine lifejackets.

The rule has been nicknamed "Lifejackets for Labs" and would regulate dog-boarding and animal daycare facilities, as well as pet stores, breeders, groomers and other providers of animal services.

The idea of a personal flotation device for dogs is, of course, rooted in ensuring the safety of your pooch, but some animal advocates think the government is barking up the wrong tree.

"The proposed requirement that all dogs wear life jackets could in itself be dangerous," said Dr. Heather Steyn, owner of Advanced Animal Care of Colorado.

"A dog could get his leg caught in the jacket of another dog, and this could be catastrophic."

The businesses that would be impacted also aren't panting over the proposed regulation, pointing out that the odds of Fido drowning while doing the dog paddle in a pool are rather low.

Still, anyone with an interest in producing lifejackets for dogs could make a splash.