CDOT, county move forward with safety improvements on Red Dirt Hill |

CDOT, county move forward with safety improvements on Red Dirt Hill

Near the crest of Red Dirt Hill, two signs about 15 feet apart offer mixed messages to drivers. One asks drivers to stay right except to pass, while the other tells drivers to merge left.
McKenna Harford /

Improvements to the infamous strip of US Highway 40 know as Red Dirt Hill could come as soon as next year.

Following extensive discussions between the Grand Board of County Commissioners and the Colorado Department of Transportation, certain improvements listed in a study for safety and traffic operations could be implemented starting early next summer.

The CDOT study outlined more than $7 million worth of safety improvements for the section of US 40, spanning from roughly the YMCA-Snow Mountain Ranch to the Church of Eternal Hills between Granby and Tabernash.

Some of the smallest recommended changes could be done “in house” with CDOT. On Tuesday, Traffic Operations Engineer Andi Staley told county commissioners that those changes would be added to CDOT’s work orders to be completed once weather warmed up next year.

Two larger improvements to immediately improve safety with relatively low costs include adding centerline rumble strips near County Road 86 and shoulder rumble strips near County Road 54.

Because of the safety issues, these two improvements would qualify for CDOT’s “hazard money.” Officials said that these improvements would be added to the queue but likely wouldn’t happen until next year at the soonest.

The study also recommended closing County Road 86 West, a small turnoff road that connects to County Road 86. There is an additional turnoff to CR 86 nearby, and the commissioners said they would be willing to close CR 86 West with sufficient notice.

Other intersections along the five-mile strip don’t qualify for hazard funding. Even so, the county commissioners wanted to move forward with other recommended improvements. CDOT warned that designing the improvements would likely not be within the department’s capacity.

However, the commissioners indicated a willingness to use county money to contract a design on Red Dirt Hill. As long as the proposed designs were up to CDOT specifications, officials for the region said they would put higher consideration on work with a design financed by the county.

In the near future, the commissioners said they planned to start working on a request for proposals to address some of the major changes.

The areas the commissioners highlighted as a priority included widening the westbound shoulder near the entrance to Snow Mountain Ranch; adding an eastbound acceleration and deceleration lane in that area; creating turning lanes at County Road 858; and shortening the eastbound climbing lane near County Road 52 to add a left turn lane along with a guardrail in that same area.

The improvements at just these three intersections would cost an estimated $4.4 million.

Design work typically equals 10-15% of the project cost. The commissioners seemed willing to consider using general funds to cover that expense but wanted the work to be thorough if that was the case.

“If we are going to pay for a design, we’re going to pay for a design of the entire intersection,” Commissioner Kris Manguso said.

Because not all of the intersections would qualify for hazard funding, as they don’t reach the benefit cost analysis threshold, other sources of funding for the construction would have to be sought beyond just the cost of the design.

The commissioners said they would follow up with a request for design proposals as CDOT’s planned work on the area progresses.

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