Stoplight warranted at dangerous intersection
September 3, 2003
We detest stoplights as much as the next person, but we’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion that another signal is needed in our rapidly urbanizing valley.
Another accident last week at the crossing of Highway 82 and lower Willits Lane underscored the need for better traffic control there. Emergency responders said it was lucky that nobody died.
The intersection already channels many of the vehicles headed in and out of Orchard Plaza, where the El Jebel City Market is located, as well as residents of the existing Willits neighborhood. And it’s bound to see more traffic when the massive Willits addition is completed, just upvalley.
Fourteen accidents occurred at the intersection or within a mile of it during 2002, and two more have happened this year. Too many times dangerous intersections have been identified, and yet the Colorado Department of Transportation seems to do nothing until someone is killed. We hope that won’t be the case at lower Willits Lane.
CDOT has studied the intersection and found it deserves a stoplight, based simply on traffic volumes. The Willits development began construction this summer on a “town center” expected at buildout to include some 600,000 square feet of commercial space, including a 120-room hotel, a transit center and performing arts building.
If the intersection is a little dicey now, it’s only going to get worse.
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CDOT officials say they’re committed to installing a signal, but they’ve asked Basalt and Eagle County, which have approved the nearby developments, to help foot the bill. The Basalt town manager has acknowledged “some responsibility” for the project, but the Town Council hasn’t acted on the matter.
We would urge Eagle County and Basalt to dig into their pockets soon for this project, because it’s truly just a matter of time before the intersection claims somebody’s life.
A regional captain of the Colorado State Patrol has suggested that a stoplight won’t solve the problem, but will merely change the kind of accidents that occur there. Perhaps he’s right that a signalized intersection will decrease the number of broadside crashes but invite more rear-end accidents. He suggests a right-in, right-out intersection, which would prohibit left turns across the busy highway.
We aren’t traffic engineers here at the Times, but we sincerely hope state and local officials will tackle this problem intersection and invest a few dollars in some sort of control.
Having acknowledged the problem, there is no excuse for public officials to wait until a fatality forces their hand.