Do you hate those intersections? Well, tell us all about it
March 29, 2002
Ask any commuter in the Roaring Fork Valley which intersection on Highway 82 irritates them the most and they will probably unleash a barrage of cuss words that would make a sailor blush.
New stoplights on Highway 82 seem to pop up more frequently these days than powder days. The Colorado Department of Transportation swears it is installing “smart lights” – but you gotta wonder.
If these lights are so smart, then why do some of them make the highway traffic stop for a red signal when no traffic is approaching from the crossroad?
And when exactly will CDOT work the kinks out of the newfangled lights that use cameras on the poles rather than pressure from vehicles to trigger a change?
Stoplights aren’t always the culprit for lousy intersections. The town of Basalt has managed quite nicely by itself to make a confusing mess out of its main entrance.
And so, in the tradition of last Sunday’s Oscar Awards, we are proposing the nominees for the lousiest intersections on Highway 82 (with a surprise appearance by an intersection that was initially condemned but has worked like a charm).
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You, too, dear readers, can participate in our Asinine Intersection Contest. E-mail or fax us your vote for the lousiest intersection in the valley by Thursday, April 4. The fax number is 925-9156. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will print our favorite entries in an upcoming edition, allowing everyone to get in on the bitching and moaning. And we may even buy a bus pass for the person with the best entry.
Last light but not least
Our first nomination targets the latest stoplight to be added to Highway 82. Pictured at right, it’s located in no-man’s land, at the intersection of Highway 82 and County Road 154, east of Glenwood Springs. The light was added to accommodate new growth in the Westbank area.
Come flying around the corner, even at the posted speed, and this devil is sure to catch you off guard. Look around and see red faces to match the red light when the light stops highway traffic for no apparent reason.
Round ’em up, move ’em out
It’s easy to develop a love-hate relationship with the intersection of highways 82 and 133. Traffic often flows well. But come the afternoon rush hour, watch out.
Commuters on downvalley-bound Highway 82 who are turning into Carbondale often get stacked back farther than the turning lane accommodates. People have been known to sweat off a few pounds when the hind end of their vehicle is hanging into the fast lane of Highway 82 with traffic clipping by at 75 mph.
Edge of Hell
Eagle County made the best of a bad situation last year by making changes on the tree farm side of the main El Jebel intersection. The county pulled the frontage road back from Highway 82 to allow more stacking on the increasingly busy side street.
This intersection still has problems, particularly for vehicles leaving Movieland and City Market. Watch for additional fun once the county office/community center and athletic fields open in the tree farm.
Never one to be outdone by the county, Basalt is creating its own little nightmare in El JeBasalt. Basalt’s approval of the Willits development came with minimal requirements for addressing traffic on Willits Lane or with its intersection with Highway 82.
The developers’ consultant said another traffic signal on Highway 82, less than a half-mile away from the main El Jebel signal, would tackle the problem. And for good measure, the consultants felt another stoplight to serve Valley Road – where vehicles turn in to City Market and will turn in to the Willits commercial core – would do nicely.
What was the reply by Basalt town officials? “Sounds good to us.”
We don’t have anything against roundabouts, as you’ll see below, but Basalt’s just doesn’t work. Maybe it’s simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time – or simply in the wrong place, period.
There’s something goofy about turning off the highway, wheeling through the roundabout, dog-legging downvalley, then finally dog-legging into town. The arrangement even prompted one Basalt councilwoman to label it “the circular gyration crap.”
Stop the madness! Bring back the straight shot again at the 7-Eleven bridge.
While we’re picking on Basalt, some commuters noted that the two stoplights at the upper bypass intersection and main intersection seem synchronized to catch you every time. Maybe that’s why people put the pedal to the metal through there.
It takes a village
Never has so much been done to accomplish so little as with the Aspen Village stoplight. There is nothing like stopping four lanes of traffic to spit out one vehicle from the side road.
Sure, we can see how it benefits Aspen Village and makes it safe when turning downvalley onto the highway. However, if ever an intersection deserved a right-in, right-out-only setup, this is it.
This wintertime addition did little to sell locals on the idea of new technology. CDOT installed cameras on the signal poles to detect when vehicles were trying to turn. Commuters stalled on Highway 82 discovered in the first snowstorm of the year that the cameras couldn’t operate when snow stuck to their lenses.
Going in circles
Here’s one that bucks the trend. Ironically, the intersection that works best was initially criticized most. Critics contended that Pitkin County was making a multimillion-dollar blunder when it created the roundabout at the intersection of Castle Creek and Maroon Creek roads with Highway 82.
In reality, the new and improved intersection really is new and improved. Sure there have been some fender-benders and traffic snarls on some mornings, but that’s due to the Cemetery Lane light. The new roundabout sure beats the old light and, especially, some of the turkeys listed above.