Town of Basalt takes aim at lead-footed drivers |

Town of Basalt takes aim at lead-footed drivers

BASALT – A lead foot can get you in trouble in Basalt these days.

The town is trying to get motorists to slow down by using a one-two punch of issuing lots of speeding tickets and installing stop signs in strategic places.

Officers have made nearly as many traffic stops this year already as they made in all of 2010, Basalt Police Chief Roderick O’Connor said. They wrote 266 tickets for traffic violations in 2010. They have issued 238 tickets already this year, he said.

“Pretty much all of them” have been for speeding, he said.

Both years are in contrast to 2009, when 70 traffic tickets were issued.

What officers are learning this year is that most of the speeding is done by residents of their own neighborhoods, according to O’Connor. That confirms what national experts have found for years.

O’Connor said neighborhoods have the power to solve the residential speeding problems themselves. It takes buy-in from everyone in a neighborhood to slow down. Issuing tickets won’t do it alone.

“It’s not like I want to throw a cop on every corner to slow people down,” O’Connor said.

The department has also boosted its patrols of Highway 82 through Basalt to look for speeders and motorists running red lights. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority requested the extra patrols after a tow truck ran a red light and plowed into a bus at Brush Creek Road and Highway 82 last winter. Authorities said it was fortunate there were no serious injuries in that crash.

RFTA sent letters to law enforcement agencies after that incident saying running red lights was an issue from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. Basalt responded by patrolling its jurisdiction more diligently for those infractions.

The installation of stop signs around town is part of a different initiative. The town installed a stop sign Tuesday on Willits Lane at Meadow Lane, an entrance to the Willits residential neighborhood. The stop sign is intended to slow traffic on a long straight-away of Willits Lane that’s posted at 30 mph but typically saw motorists driving much faster.

Another stop sign was installed at Meadow and East Valley Road within Willits, also to slow traffic on a straight-away. A third stop sign is pegged to go in at Lauren and Laurel in Elk Run.

Town Hall isn’t arbitrarily choosing places to pull out the stops. Town officials received numerous complaints from residents last year about speeders in neighborhoods. Town Manager Bill Kane suggested they form a citizens’ committee comprised of the people who filed complaints and ask them to suggest solutions.

O’Connor was picked to head the Residential Speeding Mitigation Committee when he was a sergeant with the department, before getting promoted to chief. About nine residents participated in the committee meetings and ultimately recommended installation of the three stop signs. They also suggested the speed limit in Elk Run be lowered from 25 to 20 mph.

The committee members wanted to be proactive rather than reactive to a tragic incident, such as a pedestrian getting hit by a speeder, O’Connor said. The Town Council was kept informed about the committee’s work, including the placement of the new stop signs.

As can be expected, the new measures are getting mixed results from commuters.

“We’ve already had a zillion complaints about the stop sign we put in at Willits,” O’Connor said.

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