Deadly crossing up for fix
It was back in April of 1999 when a Jeep Cherokee traveling down valley on Highway 82 smashed into a van that Sing Guo Wu, 24, and Yiao Jun Zhang, 35, were pushing off the road. The two Basalt residents who had worked at Little Ollie’s were dead.Because of the high accident rate at the intersection where Wu and Zhang were killed – Smith Way and Highway 82 in Woody Creek – Pitkin County and the Colorado Department of Transportation expects to make major improvements there in the next year. “The intersection will definitely be improved and a light is an option,” said Brian Pettet, director of public works for Pitkin County. “It’s a dangerous intersection now, with high vehicle speeds and a constrained intersection.”Though a light is at the forefront, other options being studied include a roundabout or new turn lanes with a center barrier. The project is currently estimated to cost $1.7 million. “You can’t do much with one-point-seven,” said Pettet, who commented that the roundabout in Aspen cost between $6 million and $7 million. “[A roundabout] would be hugely expensive and probably cost prohibitive.”The Colorado Department of Transportation has hired a consultant to study average daily traffic, congestion, accident history and area development in order to come up with suggestions for what can be done to increase safety at the intersection.”The County has been pushing this fix,” Pettet said. “It’s been one of our top priorities from a hazard elimination standpoint. The fatalities that occurred on that intersection made this money readily available.”Pitkin County Commissioners will look at the different possibilities in September. It is unclear how much the county will support the project, though Pettet said there is money earmarked for Highway 82 in the budget. “We are working with Pitkin County on this,” said Nancy Shanks, spokesperson for C-DOT. She continued on to say that she expected the county to fund at least some of the project and that engineers from the state have already met with the county to discuss options. “When there’s a great deal of traffic and development in the area we will have public process as part of any changes,” said Shanks, mentioning comment would take place in the fall. This is the second proposed stoplight on Highway 82 this year. The first was at the Mid-valley Medical Center in Basalt, at the intersection of 82 and Original Road.That light was supported by the nearby neighborhood while congestion-weary commuters dreaded a new traffic diversion or stoplight on Highway 82. Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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