State won’t give green light for signal at bad intersection in the midvalley
December 16, 2002
A midvalley intersection that’s regarded as one of the most dangerous on Highway 82 isn’t pegged to receive a traffic signal even though a state-sponsored study says one is needed.
The fourth injury accident of the year occurred Wednesday night at the intersection of Highway 82 and Willits Lane-North. One of the drivers was slightly injured when a vehicle headed downvalley turned toward Willits Lane into the path of an upvalley-bound vehicle.
Emergency response officials said it was fortunate that injuries weren’t worse, just like in past accidents there.
“That’s a bad intersection. We have a lot of accidents there,” said Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson. “I bet we’ve gone there at least once per month lately.”
Injury accidents occurred in January, August, September and now December at that intersection, according to the department’s records for emergency medical response. One of the wrecks resulted in a serious permanent injury, according to Thompson. Statistics on crashes that didn’t involve injuries weren’t available for 2002.
State data shows there were six crashes at the intersection between 1996 and 1999. Figures weren’t available for 2000 and 2001.
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Thompson, a former Pitkin County deputy, said a traffic signal would undoubtedly improve the safety of the intersection.
Traffic is heavy there due to travel in and out of the El Jebel City Market and the surrounding Orchard Plaza commercial development, plus vehicles destined for residences and businesses accessed off Willits Lane.
Traffic along that stretch of Highway 82 grew from 9,850 vehicle trips per day in 1988 to 18,500 vehicle trips per day in 1998, according to counts performed by the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Traffic volume continued to grow since then and is projected to keep growing, according to a study commissioned by CDOT, Eagle County and the town of Basalt.
“Of those intersections where some or all of the traffic movements at the stop controlled intersections are currently experiencing problems, only one of the intersections ? Willits Lane-North ? meets the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices peak-hour traffic signal warrants,” the study said.
The Highway 82 Access Control Plan was performed by a former CDOT engineer who now works as a consultant. The three governments that commissioned the study wanted to use it was a blueprint to guide improvements to Highway 82 through the Eagle County section of the midvalley.
An executive summary of the study indicated that the busy intersection will become even busier in the near future. A development by the Kodiak Lake water skiing facility will turn the intersection from a T to a standard four-legged one. In addition, the anticipated development at the Willits commercial core will generate more traffic.
The intersection “should be signalized immediately,” said the study, which was released in “final draft” form in February 2002.
The Basalt Town Council endorsed the plan in May.
“I think that’s a very dangerous intersection,” said Basalt public services director Bob Gish. “I think a traffic light is already warranted.”
Thompson said a signalized intersection would decrease the “T-bone” type accidents that occur when a vehicle turns in front of another.
However, CDOT doesn’t have a signal at that intersection included in its current budget, said Jim Nall, CDOT traffic and safety director for the region that includes the Roaring Fork Valley.
“I don’t even know if a traffic signal is warranted there,” he said.
Further investigation would be required before a decision is made. Investigations are typically triggered by the county or town where an intersection is located.
Gish said CDOT is aware that the Basalt Town Council endorsed the highway access plan, which calls for a traffic signal at that intersection. CDOT still hasn’t given final approval to that plan, 10 months after the final draft was submitted.
When Nall was informed about the concerns of the Basalt chief, he stressed that further investigation of the safety of the intersection could easily be performed, and he said he would look into issues with that portion of the road.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com]