Basalt tackles speeding in Willits |

Basalt tackles speeding in Willits

BASALT ” Call it the great Woody Creek versus Cemetery Lane debate.

In a war on speeders in the Willits neighborhood, the Basalt Town Council has decided to go the Cemetery Lane route. It approved spending at least $200,000 on “traffic calming devices” that are modeled after what the city of Aspen created on its Cemetery Lane a couple of years ago. The main road through Willits will be narrower, twister and have raised pedestrian crosswalks and entrances added.

Desperate residents are grateful for any help they can get, but they are questioning if deep speed dips ” such as those in Woody Creek ” and stop signs wouldn’t be a better and cheaper option.

While the solutions are debatable, there is no question there is a problem. Residents of the relatively new neighborhood have complained for the last couple of years that the 20 mph speed limits regularly are ignored on East Valley Road and other streets. They fear it only will get worse once Whole Foods Market is built in the Willits Town Center and attracts more traffic. Town officials verified the problem and bolted temporary speed bumps onto streets to try to slow drivers.

Residents said the bumps have barely slowed the worst offenders.

“There’s an enforcement issue because people aren’t paying attention to “the speed limit,” said Ivan Skoric. “People are flipping through there at 40 miles per hour and not even caring.”

Homeowner Greg Pickrell said people will drive on the opposite side of the road onto a bike path to avoid the speed bumps. Some motorists even took the extreme step recently of “jacking up” the temporary speed bumps in an effort to remove them.

Ivan’s wife, Jacqueline Parker Skoric, borrowed a radar gun from Basalt cops and clocked speeds of 45 to 55 mph. She said she screams at offenders. When vehicles go by with a company logo, she takes the time to call them and complain about speeders. Her tactics make Ivan a little concerned for her safety, she said. He has led the lobbying effort to get the town to take action.

The Skorics favor the Woody Creek approach.

The town’s consultants from a firm called Loris proposed a $500,000 solution. That firm also worked with Aspen on traffic calming at Cemetery Lane. The consultants said speed dips and stop signs don’t work as well because motorists just speed up after clearing the hurdles. Their alternative approach is to create a street where vehicles proceed at a slow but constant speed.

The council sided with the consultants and expressed a need to get something in place this summer.

“We could study this thing to death and we’d be talking about it next summer,” said Town Manager Bill Efting.

The council directed its staff and consultants to make whatever improvements they can for about $200,000, the money available in the budget. Some traffic calming devices will be temporary until more funds are available in future years.

Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said he didn’t want to wait until there is a death or serious injury to take action. He said he sees a vital need for the town to slow traffic in various residential neighborhoods as a matter of safety of residents.

“We know there’s a problem,” Tennenbaum said. “I’m not going to turn my back on the problem.”

Mayor Leroy Duroux approved the expenditure, but warned that it wouldn’t solve all problems. Kids still must look both ways and drivers simply must slow down. The road is “perfectly safe” at 20 mph, he said.

Council members acknowledged that their expenditure at Willits will invite residents of other neighborhoods to come in with similar requests. While that could strain the budget, Tennenbaum suggested it was the least government could do for its residents.

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