CDOT, county to ponder changes to intersection
The intersection of a fatal accident Sunday needs some attention from the state’s transportation department, including replacing a temporary stop sign and possibly installing a traffic signal, a Pitkin County official said this week.
“(Colorado Department of Transportation) can look at it from an engineering perspective to make it safer,” Brian Pettet, the county’s public works director, said Wednesday. “There’s a lot of close calls there.”
Pettet and Zane Znamenacek, CDOT’s traffic and safety engineer for northwestern Colorado, both said they plan to meet, possibly next week, at the intersection to discuss possible changes.
NBA agent Dan Fegan was killed Sunday after he entered Highway 82 from Smith Way in Woody Creek and was struck by a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus traveling 52 mph. Fegan’s 5-year-old son and 29-year-old nanny were injured in the collision between the bus and the 2018 Kia SUV Fegan was driving.
Colorado State Patrol said it was unclear if Fegan stopped at the stop sign before attempting to cross the two lanes of traffic and head upvalley on Highway 82. RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship has said that video from the bus appears to show Fegan not stopping at the sign.
Pettet said Wednesday the stop sign at the intersection is a temporary sign that’s been there “for some time” after the permanent version was taken out by a driver. It needs to be replaced by a permanent stop sign, he said.
One of the main things that should be done at the intersection is to somehow emphasize to drivers how dangerous it can be, Pettet said.
“We need to see what we can do to inform people of the importance of stopping at that intersection,” he said. “You need to be on high alert when you approach that intersection.”
Another flashing light in the area of the temporary stop sign that would be similar to the one now present for drivers heading downvalley from the intersection is one possibility, he said. Also, a flashing sign before the intersection warning drivers to stop ahead is another idea, Pettet said.
Beyond that, possibilities include installing a traffic signal at the intersection or a roundabout, he said.
Znamenacek said he’s aware the intersection has been on CDOT’s radar for a while and that it’s had improvements made in 2003 and 2009. He also said further changes could be made.
“I think we’re definitely receptive to making changes,” Znamenacek said Thursday. “It’s just unclear what those changes will be.”
The first thing CDOT will want to look at is the agency’s crash data for the intersection, he said. However, a ransomware virus demanding a bitcoin payment that has infected CDOT servers for more than a week is essentially holding that information hostage because the agency’s networks are down, Znamenacek said.
He said he hopes to have that information — which will show how dangerous the intersection is — by the time he meets with Pettet and other county officials.
If that data coupled with his conversations with county officials determine that new signage is the answer, the fixes could happen relatively quickly, Znamenacek said. However, if they decide on a larger solution such as a traffic light or reconfiguring the intersection so people cannot cross Highway 82 to head upvalley, then the process could take years to complete, he said.
“My big message is that (while) this is terrible, it’s tragic, we don’t want to rush into rash decisions,” Znamenacek said.
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A straw poll by the Pitkin County commissioners Wednesday indicated they would grant approval to Aspen Skiing Co.’s long-sought expansion into the Pandora’s terrain. The board did not take a formal vote, and instead, county commissioners and staff will meet to hammer out details on formal approval documents and it will be back on the Nov. 17 agenda for the vote.