The Colorado Department of Transportation is standing by its previously announced decision to remove the traffic light situated at the intersection of U.S. Highway 285 and Park County Road 43A.
Meanwhile, Platte Canyon area residents continue to voice their concerns publically while ramping up organized opposition to the proposed project as it has been presented by CDOT.
The most recent organized effort to prevent the removal of the traffic light came in the form of a public meeting hosted by Mark Linné, who serves as Chairperson for the recently formed Safe Access for Everyone (SAFE 285).
The public meeting, held Sept. 16 at Shepard of the Rockies Lutheran Church in Bailey, was attended by a small but passionate group of citizens, as well as Park County Commissioner Richard Elsner and Commissioner-elect Amy Mitchell.
Mitchell met in person with CDOT representatives just days prior the public meeting, and reported to the audience a few details about that discussion.
“They [CDOT representatives] stated that the reason the traffic light was being removed was because it is an “unwarranted signal,’” Mitchell stated. “What I asked for was documentation supporting the theory that the removal of the light makes us safer.”
Mitchell continued, speaking specifically to business owners whose businesses are dependent upon traffic flows at U.S. Highway 285 and park County Road 43A.
“You all built your businesses based on the promise that access would be maintained in and around the proximity of that intersection and that the light would remain in place,” Mitchell said.
There has been documentation released by CDOT regarding accidents that have occurred in recent years at the intersection in question. That documentation, however, suggested that about half of the accidents reported were the result of wildlife crossings or other factors not directly related to the presence of the traffic light.
There is also considerable sentiment from citizens that the removal of the light equates to somewhat of a “band-aid on a bullet wound” approach to a much larger problem that exists throughout the U.S. Highway corridor.
“The removal of this light will not help to resolve traffic issues in the Richmond Hill area, and it will not resolve problems in the vicinity of Pine Junction, either,” Linné said. “These are areas that also cause problems all along the 285 corridor, but they are not being addressed.”
Elsner stated that he would continue to promote dialogue with CDOT representatives on behalf of Park County residents, but did not express much optimism in terms of preventing the light from being removed, or with regards to larger issues on the heavily traveled thoroughfare.
“They [CDOT] would really like to have four lanes at least to Crow Hill, and that would come at a cost of about $278 million,” Elsner said. “I really don’t think the issue of weekend congestion on U.S Highway 285 will be resolved in my lifetime.”
Elsner, like Mitchell, has also spoken to CDOT officials regarding the removal of the traffic light. He also assured those present that he would approach CDOT representatives again about the topic.
Linné and other members of the Safe Access for Everyone citizen’s group recently compiled and published a list of arguments against the removal of the traffic light, and they are printed below in their entirety:
Tourism traffic and commercial truck traffic through Park County and rural Colorado has increased significantly and has overloaded U.S.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.
Park County welcomes tourists and commercial enterprises in our county, and we want all road users to travel on safe, unimpeded roadways.
CDOT’s $1.3 million project to 1) remove a traffic light on U.S. Highway in Bailey, 2) to 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.
Our Objections To CDOT’s 285 Plans:
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 US285 risks crippling commercial growth, damages viability of business enterprises along the U.S. 285 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
Stop current CDOT contract allocation and conduct 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
Extending 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