Residents petition for another light on 82 | AspenTimes.com
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Residents petition for another light on 82

Chad Abraham

In a move likely to anger motorists, residents of a midvalley neighborhood asked Basalt officials on Tuesday to push for a stoplight at a Highway 82 intersection they say is dangerous.Tom Newland, who lives on Original Road, said accidents have skyrocketed on the stretch between El Jebel and the lower Two Rivers Road light, which provides access to the Willits subdivision. His neighborhood is across the highway from the Midvalley Medical Center.He and his wife gathered signatures from neighbors who support a stoplight at the intersection. Newland turned in 50 names to a joint meeting of the Basalt Town Council and members of the town’s planning and zoning commission Tuesday. Three other residents of the neighborhood addressed those at the meeting.”We’ve been getting pretty frustrated” with the intersection, said Newland, a member of the Roaring Fork Planning Commission.He said there have been a couple of serious accidents at the intersection, which is also near the KOA campground, in the last two weeks.Newland also presented statistics he said he obtained from the Colorado Department of Transportation indicating accidents on the El Jebel-Two Rivers Road stretch increased 91 percent from 1996 to 2003, the last year accident statistics were available from CDOT, he said.Traffic volume has jumped from 14,800 vehicles a day in 1996 to 21,658 a day now, a 46 percent increase, according to Newland’s figures.CDOT has approved a traffic signal for the intersection in its Highway 82 access plan, he said. But under the plan, a light might not be installed until 2025.Despite the numbers, another stoplight could infuriate drivers. There are about 15 stoplights on Highway 82 between Carbondale and Aspen.But Newland and the others who spoke said the intersection near their homes is incredibly treacherous.”We rely on gaps to get into traffic,” Newland said. “Nowadays, the gaps are getting less and less, and fewer and far between. It really is tough to get across.”Another resident said “there’s no margin for error” when turning left, or upvalley, onto the highway because there are no acceleration lanes.”You have to gun it,” said Bonnie Kowar. She said she fearfully watched a mother pushing a baby stroller across the intersection as cars whizzed by at 70 mph.”Please consider it now before we have another tragedy,” she said.The intersection is particularly dangerous because both a transit bus stop and a school bus stop are close by, one resident said.A CDOT spokeswoman said the residents were approaching the issue correctly. Nancy Shanks said petitions are a good way to get the issue before local officials, who can then turn to the regional transportation planning commission. That body, in turn, makes the pitch to CDOT.”It has to be considered a local priority,” Shanks said.Newland said he understands drivers’ concerns about yet another stoplight.But “we’re rapidly approaching congestion for four lanes, especially during rush hour,” Newland said. “You’d love to say, ‘If everyone slowed down, we wouldn’t have any problems.’ But nobody slows down.”Kowar said she had also considered potential complaints about the stoplight.”And I think it’s more important to look at safety than just convenience,” she said. “Really, Highway 82 isn’t so much of a highway in certain spots anymore. When you look at the developments that are running along the highway, it’s a community, not a highway. That needs to be taken into consideration.”Tuesday was the first time residents had spoken to Basalt officials about their concerns. Newland said the goal is for the town to pass a resolution appealing to CDOT for the stoplight. Mayor Leroy Duroux said the issue would be put on the agenda for the Town Council’s next meeting.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com


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