Vocal in their frustration, local residents on July 21 met to discuss what efforts could be undertaken to stop the Colorado Department of Transportation from advancing plans for removal of the traffic light on U.S. Highway 285 and County Road 43A at Crow Hill in Bailey.
Tourism traffic and commercial truck traffic through Park County and rural Colorado has increased significantly and has overloaded Highway 285 to a level that CDOT is about to start a project that will have significant impacts on local residents and tax-paying businesses.
While many at the meeting expressed the belief that Park County welcomes tourists and commercial enterprises in the county, and understand the need for all road users to travel on safe, unimpeded roadways, they felt that CDOT’s solution had been rushed without considering the input of local residents and was an inadequate solution in terms of spending the amount of money necessary to solve traffic problems. Call participant Patrick Goggin of Bailey responded to CDOT’s logic by commenting it was akin to saying, “We know the car’s brakes are shot but can’t afford to fix them. However, we do have enough money for gas so let’s fill ‘er up and hit the road”
The meeting occurred after a series of informal meetings held earlier in the month, all of which were in response to a CDOT virtual informational meeting held July 9. At that meeting, CDOT officials indicated that the project, slated to cost $1.35 million, would improve safety along Highway 285, though were less persuasive in addressing how local residents could potentially be impacted by the light’s removal.
Many residents were not pleased with the meeting, most expressing the concern that more questions were asked than answered. The biggest ongoing complaint was that there has been a lack of local citizen input in the process, and also that the removal of the light would have an adverse impact on the community.
At the July 21 meeting, 4organized in response to CDOT presentation, local residents created Safe Access For Everyone 285 (SAFE 285), with the goal of creating community awareness and working towards ensuring that CDOT provide a mechanism for incorporating stakeholders’ input in any decisions that directly impact the community. According to the group’s website (www.SAFE285.com), the concerns with the existing process include that CDOT:
The agenda was put forth without input from community and stakeholders
Traffic study conducted in 2020 was a 15 minute observation during low traffic conditions that did not observe or consider heavy tourist and recreational vehicle traffic on weekends
Blocking traffic from crossing Highway 285 risks crippling commercial growth, damages viability of business enterprises along the US285 corridor -- which will reduce state revenue
Limited audience at CDOT meeting, full community input not received
Promised answers to questions never delivered
Promised more meetings, did not schedule
The group has also come up with initial thoughts on how to best address and move forward with potential solutions, which include:
Stop current CDOT contract allocation and conduct a comprehensive traffic study to include summer tourism travel during peak times
Install smart signal to allow variable timing of signal
Re-stripe roadways to better utilize existing pavement
Extend merge lanes
Install center barriers for increased safety
Allow input from individuals who use these roads on a daily basis
Explore possibility of frontage roads
Build proper flyover intersection
Local resident Riki Stenger, who has been involved with some of the recent construction at Crow Hill, noted that local residents have invested millions of dollars over the last 24 months, and removal of the stop light without consideration of its impact on business was just one of many factors that could have an adverse impact.
“CDOT has come in with zero commitment and concern about two of the biggest issues: local safety and local businesses,” Stenger said. “Commercial is important and generates local jobs.”
Mark Linné, one of the business owners in the area and a director of Deer Creek Metropolitan District that provides water service to the affected area, noted that businesses could be adversely impacted by the current plan, unless alternatives are examined and community input was objectively considered.
“It’s important that CDOT listen to our concerns, some something that has not happened up until this point,” Linné said
SAFE285 held its first rally July 24 in the parking lot of Crow Hill Bible Church. Despite the rain, 40 local residents and business owners assembled to discuss the response to CDOT’s intended plans to remove the light at U.S. Highway 285 and Park County Road 43A on Crow Hill.
Reporters for The Flume and Canyon Courier interviewed members of the steering committee, which later selected Mark Linné as the chair for the group.
SAFE285 will work to coordinate efforts among local residents, public leaders, HOAs and other interested parties to make sure that CDOT considers the needs of local residents as it seeks to make substantive changes to traffic flows in the community.
The group is focusing on gaining additional public notice and getting the word out to residents, public leaders, and stakeholders in the process of gaining and coordinating neighborhood support. The group is exploring all options, beginning with reaching out to the county commissioners, as well as additional options including the potential of an injunction to help slow down the process and provide the time to consider the best solution that meets the needs of local residents and the traveling public.
CDOT’s $1.3 million project to remove a traffic light on U.S. Highway 285 in Bailey and reduce traffic to one lane in spots now serviced by two lanes appears to be an inadequate plan to concerned residents and business owners. A plan based on 16-year-old studies (traffic has changed since 2004), using equally old environmental impact studies, and without proper citizen-input into the process.
It appears that the concerns of local residents is beginning to have an impact. Despite an earlier timeline that had construction beginning in September 2020, the most recent update from CDOT is a new revised timeline as noted on their website: https://www.codot.gov/projects/us285-improvements
July 2020: Digital public meeting
Due to public input received, the CDOT project team will take additional time to fully assess the feedback prior to establishing the construction schedule.
CDOT will review concerns raised during the virtual public engagement event, survey findings and coordinate with Park County officials before determining how and if the project moves forward.
Linné expressed optimism though he noted that citizens have brought the issue of the light and local concerns to the commissioners over the last month, with no meaningful response from the county. Linné noted that this is the time for the County to get involved in the process. “I am hopeful that the commissioners understand how important this is to local residents and to the safety and vitality of the community. We have a chance to have input in the process and we need to make sure our voices are heard.”
The next rally will occur Aug. 2, with local media invited to continue to build momentum for the community effort. The meeting will be held in the lower parking lot of Crow Hill Bible Church on Bulldogger Lane in Bailey.