Some Bailey-area residents contend that planned improvements on U.S. Highway 285 are ill-conceived, and that information regarding the improvements were not communicated to stakeholders prior to a July 9 meeting in which the Colorado Department of Transportation unveiled its specific plans to relieve accidents and congestion on one of the state’s deadliest thoroughfares.

The crux of the issue is the planned removal of a traffic light at the corner of U.S. Highway 285 and CR 43A, and whether it will reduce congestion and prevent accidents at the increasingly-busy, and increasingly hazardous intersection.

CDOT held a meeting in October of 2019 to discuss the possible removal of the light, where the vast majority of those in attendance were vocal in their opposition to the idea.

Many of those same citizens felt as though CDOT did not take their input seriously, and that their voices were not heard, based on CDOT’s most recent announcement confirming that the light would in fact be removed.

CDOT announced at the  July 9 virtual meeting, conducted via Zoom, that citizens would still be given the opportunity to take an online survey regarding the improvements set to begin this fall.

Questions from about 200 attendees were submitted to CDOT personnel during the meeting. The names of those submitting questions were not  provided.

One concerned citizen asked what CDOT would do if overwhelming opposition to the removal of the light still existed, and if that opposition was clearly demonstrated through survey results.

“That is a great question,” said CDOT representative, Jason Nelson. “I think we are going to take everyone’s responses; we are going to group them together, and really get some good data. If there is something we overlooked, we are going to have to go over it and we are going to share it with everybody and allow the decision makers to make decisions.”

About the project

According to CDOT, “U.S. Highway 285 (US 285) continues to experience traffic congestion and crashes due to the increase in motorists traveling the corridor. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has identified safety improvements near the town of Bailey.”

According to information provided by CDOT at www.CDOT.gov, the primary objectives of the $1.35 million plan are as follows:

The US 285 Safety Improvements Project is intended to make the route safer for the traveling public, reduce risk for local residents, improve flow through the area and reduce crashes. The project focuses on:

-Northbound US 285 through the Town of Bailey

-Northbound/southbound US 285 between the interchange at County Road 72 and Rosalie Road, approximately one mile.

-Safer and more efficient routes as a result of the removal of the traffic signal at U.S. Highway 285 and CR 43A.

CDOT is currently suggesting a number of changes to meet the previously stated objectives, each of which are detailed at www.codot.gov/projects/us285-improvements.

Additional details pertaining to the project, as stated by CDOT, include:

Safety

-Decreasing possible crash locations at the intersection of US 285 and CR 43A

-Free right turns at CR 43A allows for improved traffic flow

-Increase acceleration lane length to design standard at the interchange of US 285 and CR 72

-Reduce crossover crashes by installation of median barrier

-Reduce the potential for rear end crashes by the removal of the traffic signal at CR 43A

-Decrease travel speed through Bailey

-Provide deceleration lanes in Bailey

Access

Provides safer access points to businesses in Bailey

Travel Times

Removal of the traffic signal at CR 43A allows traffic on US 285 to flow through the area removing the traffic backups currently occurring

Schedule

-Late June 2020: Digital Public Meeting

-Summer 2020: Contractor Hired

-September 2020: Construction Start

-November 2020: Construction Completion

Funding

The total program cost for this project (construction, project design and management) is approximately $1,350,000. Funding came from the Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery, or the FASTER Safety Program.

FASTER established the Road Safety Fund to support the construction, reconstruction, or maintenance of projects that the state Transportation Commission, a county, or municipality determine are needed to enhance the safety of a state highway, county road, or city street. The fund dollars are allocated based on a statutory formula: 60% to CDOT, 22% to counties, and 18% to municipalities. For CDOT, FASTER provides approximately $80 million per year in safety funds.

To date, FASTER Safety funds have supported 270 projects across the state.

More specifics

The project is broken down into two parts, A and B. Part A focuses on northbound U.S. Highway 285 through the Town of Bailey, while Part B focuses on northbound/southbound U.S. Highway 285 between the interchange at County Road 72 and Rosalie Road (approximately one mile), as well as the intersection at CR 43A and U.S. Highway 285.

Section A of the project drew far fewer comments at the July 9 meeting than did Section B.

Section B will involve 950 feet of acceleration lanes, the removal of the traffic light, the rerouting of traffic and the installation of a median barrier.

The rerouting of traffic could increase drive time by as much as two minutes, but CDOT maintains that accidents at the CR 43A/U.S. Highway 285 intersection should be reduced by 76 percent as a result of the planned improvements.

CDOT also stated that it would provide more detailed descriptions and drawings of the plans on its website in the near future.

Stakeholder concerns

The October 2019 meeting left little doubt that the majority of citizens in attendance were opposed to the removal of the traffic light at the CR 43A/U.S. Highway 285 intersection.

Those concerns were quelled somewhat by verbal assurances that the traffic light would not be removed without the addition of new lanes.

That does not appear to be the case, however, based on CDOT plans unveiled at the July 9 meeting. Some residents contend that without creating additional lanes at the intersection, the removal of the traffic light and rerouting of traffic will not be sufficient.

“This has the look of a $1.35 million restriping project,” said Mark Linne. “They seem to just be painting lines and adding barriers, without adding any new lanes.”

Linne, who is the owner of Mudslinger’s Drive-Thru Coffee and a local resident, also submitted a Letter to the Editor which can be seen on page 3 of this edition.

Another resident at the July 9 meeting expressed concerns that if bottlenecks occurring in Pine Junction and at Richmond Hill Road in Conifer are not remedied, then CDOT’s current plans would ultimately fall short of its stated goals in the Bailey area.

Nelson neither agreed nor disagreed with that assertion, saying simply that those issues were also on CDOT’s radar.

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