Talks of road conditions and maintenance, driver and biker safety
By Adam Broderick
Bike safety will be a big focus with Gunnison County and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) in the coming year.
The Board of County Commissioners met with representatives from CDOT in Gunnison on Tuesday, September 22 to discuss transportation issues and future projects in the area known as Region 3, which includes Gunnison County and 14 other counties in western Colorado as far south as Hinsdale County.
The annual meeting covered topics such as federal funding, fuel taxes, resurfacing roads, improving and maintaining bridges, tunnels and mountain passes, rock fall mitigation, snow and ice control, and of course any traffic mitigation and public safety measures necessary for such projects.
Specific goals for CDOT in 2015 include crack pouring on State Highway (SH) 135, SH 149 and SH 114; rock fall mitigation on SH 133 near Somerset; slip stabilization on SH 133 above Paonia Reservoir; culvert replacement on SH 135 near Jack’s Cabin; and milling and filling the bridge deck on the middle bridge over Blue Mesa Reservoir.
CDOT regional director David Eller noted that biking is an important topic across the state, and asked commissioners for input regarding local concerns. Rumble strips, road shoulder width and signage were discussed.
“Not long ago Colorado was the number three biking state. Last year it was number six. Governor Hickenlooper wants to improve that, and we’ll spend $100 million over the next four years to bring that number back up,” Eller told the board.
Commissioner Jonathan Houck suggested bringing more attention to the presence of bicyclists on SH 135. “We had a death on that highway this summer. Placing signs with bike stencils along the highway could help bring attention to the fact that cyclists are often on that road, and considering the cheap price of paint, I’d like to find a way to make that happen and make it happen soon.”
The board also proposed more frequent street sweeping, for the biking community as well as for drivers who aim to avoid bicyclists on the roads. Director of public works Marlene Crosby said although street sweeping services are expensive, Gunnison County would like to look further at the idea of providing its own service.
“We’ve got a big bike program here, and many riders have skinny tires and don’t like rocks. Just give us a sweeper and we’ll find someone to do it,” said commissioner Phil Chamberland.
Eller told commissioners that in order to determine if a project will be funded, whether fully or partially, CDOT would need to look at each stretch of road with proposed project funding and determine exactly what would need to be done to improve current conditions.
Those sections of road would then be compared with other similar sections of road (rural to rural, urban to urban) to determine the best possible solution to the issues at hand. For example, crash data from one section of road would be compared to crash data from similar sections of road to determine which safety measures would provide the best cost-benefit.
According to Eller, for the small amount of money CDOT gets for its annual budget, it gets inundated with project proposals. “We’ve got to do the best we can, but this particular region gets so many project requests,” he said.
CDOT reported spending more than $2.5 million on maintenance in 2014 for Region 3: $450,284 on roadway surfacing; $455,015 on roadside facilities; $57,876 on roadside appearances; $95,778 on traffic signs and services; $28,352 on structure maintenance; $1,396,440 on snow, ice and avalanche control; and $60,837 on equipment, buildings, and grounds.
Details of specific transportation projects will become available as CDOT and the county circle back for further discussion over the next year.