Grand County " Red Dirt Hill deserves a closer look from CDOT
May 2, 2008
All it took as a May 1, early morning snowstorm to remind commuters of what a white knuckle drive Red Dirt Hill can be.
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, the section of U.S. Highway 40 between Tabernash and Granby isn’t particularly dangerous despite its local reputation as one of the more treacherous sections of many driver’s daily commute.
Yet, if Grand County drivers feel universally uncomfortable driving on Red Dirt Hill, there is probably something there that statistics don’t communicate.
Part of the problem with Red Dirt Hill is that there is no room for error. At the top of the hill, there isn’t much of a shoulder, and if you slide there isn’t a guard rail to catch you. Only a drop-off into the meadow below Snow Mountain Ranch. After you crest the hill and head toward Tabernash, the road banks heavily to the right. Most likely, the tilt of the road was intentionally created to allow melting snow to roll off, but it also demands the full attention of drivers unless you want to find yourself in the ditch.
It isn’t in this year’s highway improvement budget, but in future years we believe CDOT should take the time to study this notorious piece of U.S. 40. Sporadic street lights could go a long way to adding a feeling of security during dark winter nights, especially in the middle of a blizzard. Adding guardrails at the crest of the hill might not be convenient for snow plowing, but could add to peace of mind on icy roads.
Or maybe it’s time to consider a change in the speed limit – if not year-round, during winter storm conditions.
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The Sky-Hi Daily News has been asked several times by readers to look into the cause and frequency of accidents on Red Dirt Hill. In the public mind, there is something wrong with the road.
And when we decided to make some calls – we were as surprised as anyone to discover the stretch was considered “average” compared to similar pieces of rural highway.
Even though CDOT and law enforcement don’t see Red Dirt Hill as “dangerous” according to the numbers, there’s something to be said for public perception.
If drivers are afraid of Red Dirt Hill, perhaps something needs to change.