Public safety, congestion top list of Grand County road concerns
When it comes to Grand County’s major roads, they seem to suffer from two main problems: a lack of appropriate shoulders and the need to expand to accommodate the increase in traffic.
On Tuesday, the Colorado Department of Transportation gave its annual review of the area to the Grand County Board of Commissioners and a small audience of community members. The review included an overview of recent projects and maintenance, upcoming projects and an extended discussion with the commissioners and community about their concerns.
“The idea is to step back from talking project by project and really try to have a comprehensive discussion about what our communities look like, about where we need to go and how transportation is the means to the end that gets us there,” said Shoshana Lew, executive director of CDOT.
The information collected at the annual reviews for each county will be compiled into the statewide transportation plan, as well as 10 year plan to help CDOT prioritize the millions of dollars in projects that need to be accomplished across the state.
CDOT is currently working on replacing the bridge over the North Fork of the Colorado River on U.S. 34 and resurfacing parts of it. In the future, CDOT has plans to replace traffic signals and equipment along U.S. 40 in Kremmling and Granby, as well as designing a future project to widen a portion of U.S. 40 through Fraser.
Beyond that, representatives of the engineering, traffic and safety departments in CDOT took direction from the community about the county’s next priorities.
“We’re not looking for specific fixes, we’re looking for the needs,” said Mark Rogers, regional planning manager for CDOT.
As one of the first highways to be built in the country, it’s no surprise that U.S. 40 needs a few updates. Most notably, there is a need to expand it to handle the growing number of cars driving the route, especially at choke points such as the Fraser Valley and Byers Canyon.
“Bottlenecks I think are a concern for our county,” said Commissioner Rich Cimino.
Cimino identified the need for the entrances from Grand County Road 5 onto U.S. 40 to be widened or for a turn lane to be installed because of the planned development on that road. The need to improve shoulders and road surface along the highway was also highlighted in discussion.
Safety concerns included the desire for a guardrail by Snow Mountain Ranch and the need for better signage or reduced speeds on Red Dirt Hill. Hot Sulphur Springs Mayor Bob McVeigh also advocated for the need for another crosswalk in town at Aspen Street.
Like U.S. 40, U.S. 34 is also seeing an increase in the number of drivers traveling on the road, so many community members spoke on the need to increase capacity on that route as well.
A specific area of concern is the intersection of highways 40 and 34, where the new River Run development is being built and many of the parks, such as Arapaho National Forest and Rocky Mountain National Park, intersect.
One of the more unusual aspects of the county is that the majority of its residents don’t live in the municipalities, but in unincorporated Grand County, which can make providing access to major roads harder because residents are so spread out.
A large part of Tuesday’s discussion focused on how public transportation can alleviate many capacity issues. Right now, the county’s only public transportation is The Lift bus service, which mainly serves the Fraser Valley, but also has a regular regional line to Granby.
Michael Koch, transit manager for The Lift, said expanding bus services is a priority and suggested looking into park and ride lots to support more people being able to take advantage of those services.
“Where housing is and where jobs are are typically not in the same place in the county,” Koch said. “Maybe creating some sort of infrastructure where we can bring those unincorporated populations to areas, such as park and rides, that connect to public transit so you’re getting people to the highway, but they aren’t driving on it.”
Another suggestion came from Fraser Trustee Andy Miller to take advantage of the rail route that already exists in the county and connects most of the towns together and to Steamboat Springs or Summit County.
“Everything we’re talking about here are huge infrastructure improvements to try to get more room for cars, but the other angle is to try and have less cars,” Miller said.
Lastly, community members highlighted the amount of bikers in the county and the need for better shoulders for them to ride on, more signage reminding drivers to share the road and potentially more paved bike paths.
CDOT plans to finish annual reviews with each of the state’s 64 counties by the end of the summer and then will begin creating the statewide medium- and long-term plans.
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