Stuck with another Hwy. 82 signal? | AspenTimes.com
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Stuck with another Hwy. 82 signal?

PITKIN COUNTY Pitkin County commissioners oppose putting a traffic light at the Smith Way intersection on Highway 82, but they may have no choice.The intersection near Woody Creek has seen a heavy increase in construction traffic and congestion in recent years, as well as a number of serious T-bone accidents with cars traveling downvalley at high speed striking vehicles pulling onto the highway. As a result, Colorado Department of Transportation officials proposed a number of solutions – including a traffic light – and held a public information forum at the Pitkin County Library in November.Pitkin County commissioners were initially opposed to a stoplight and wrote a letter to CDOT saying they would rather see improvements – like an upvalley acceleration lane, better sight lines, a wider median and warning signs at the spot.But a $1.75 million special “hazard reduction grant” from CDOT is specifically set aside for a traffic light only, commissioners said Tuesday. And there is no money in the coffers for anything else.The alternative would be to resubmit a plan and get in the long line for state funding, which would mean another summer and possibly more dangerous T-bone accidents at the intersection, commissioners said.Their last options: a phone call and an appeal to CDOT.”People are so sick of signals on that highway,” said Commissioner Patti Clapper. “People are going to flip.”Clapper said the board has a good line of communication with CDOT officials and should talk with them about other options, adding that Mick Ireland, a former commissioner now sitting as a member of the Colorado Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel, could speak up for the county.”He knows them and they know him,” Clapper said. “And if he went down there it might make a difference.”Commissioner Michael Owsley agreed to the call, but said a traffic light would be a better solution than keeping the status quo.”I want to get on the highway safely,” said Michael Owsley, a Woody Creek resident who said crossing two lanes of high-speed downvalley traffic and merging with cars heading upvalley is next to impossible in the peak morning traffic hours, and too much of a challenge for inexperienced drivers.”If a stoplight was put in there this summer … it would be better,” Owsley said, adding a that a stoplight would not have to be a permanent solution. “I don’t like it, but it’s available.””There’s no other option other than a light. That’s the problem we’re facing,” Commissioner Dorothea Farris said.”Once you put the light in, it’s in,” Clapper said, saying there would be no chance of changing things.”Once they do a light, there will be no other funding,” Commissioner Rachel Richards said.Owsley likened the dangerous intersection to a wound, saying that when wounded “you bandage it and then you bandage it again” and it would be better to have a traffic light with funding than nothing.”I’m all for a phone call,” Owsley said, saying a conference call would be a chance for both Ireland and Brian Pettet, public works director for Pitkin County, to “sing a song to CDOT.””If that doesn’t work, we need to step back and go to the stoplight,” Owsley said.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.


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