RTA laying plans for summer construction project
This summer the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) will construct several paved pull-out lanes along Highway 135 to serve as regular stops for the free RTA bus.
The bus service began last fall, and the bus was originally intended to make brief stops along Highway 135 at Cement Creek Road and Brush Creek Road, provided there were people waiting at the stop or passengers on the bus who needed to get off. The bus makes several round trips a day between Gunnison, Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte and is free to the public.
Less than a month after the service began, the RTA was contacted by Alpine Express president Woody Sherwood, who said he had been notified by the Colorado State Patrol that if a bus was not completely behind the white line on the side of the road at the Cement Creek stop, this would constitute a traffic violation.
During a December board meeting, RTA director Scott Truex said the stops would be removed from the regular service schedule.
Truex said the RTA, in order to re-institute the stops, would need to create a space for the bus to pull completely off the road for the bus stops at Cement Creek and Brush Creek. He said any improvements to the highway would need to be cleared by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) first, since Highway 135 is under their jurisdiction.
In February the RTA learned that CDOT would be resurfacing a portion of Highway 135 this summer. At the time, Truex told the board it might be possible to have several bus stops completed concurrent with the road resurfacing.
On Thursday, April 10, representatives from the RTA, CDOT, and Gunnison County took a tour of the two intersections to get a first-hand look at what needed to be done. RTA board member Jim Starr says the group determined that a pull-off alongside the highway at Brush Creek would be too dangerous.
The group also determined that neither Gunnison County nor CDOT would have the resources to plow a bus stop near the intersection with Cement Creek Road during the wintertime, leaving that task up to Crested Butte South.
During a regular meeting of the RTA the following day, April 11, Truex received permission from the board to find an engineering firm that could design a bus pull-off near the Cement Creek intersection.
During the next regular meeting on May 9, Truex said the engineering firm of Schmueser Gordon Meyer had estimated the engineering work for bus pull-offs on both sides of the highway would cost approximately $8,600. Truex said he had a contract prepared to allow SGM to perform the engineering work.
RTA board member Skip Berkshire said, “What we really want is the surveying and the basic engineering for the pad, (traffic) striping, and that’s it.”
Truex said CDOT also requires flagging and signage plans to be included in any work application. He said the RTA has budgeted $300,000 for the actual construction of the bus pull-offs, but they were expecting to receive $240,000 in grants from the Federal Transit Administration to offset that cost.
Board member Bill Babbitt asked if any other engineering firms had been contacted for the work.
Truex said the RTA has had previous success working with SGM, so they were the first choice. Additionally, to get the pull-outs done this summer, concurrent with the road resurfacing, the plans would need ample time to clear CDOT’s planning offices. “My biggest concern is getting this through CDOT… These guys (SGM) are quick and we’ll get this in on time,” Truex said.
Starr agreed. “We’re kind of bumping up against a tight time frame here.”
The board then authorized Truex to carry out the contract with SGM.
Following the meeting, Starr said SGM was in the process of engineering the bus pull-outs and their findings would be included in a permit application to CDOT in the next few weeks.