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CB council considers traffic officers for summer

Big picture concern is whether it makes town more traffic-friendly

By Mark Reaman

The Crested Butte Town Council will gather some information to determine the feasibility of hiring traffic control personnel to work Sixth Street during the busy periods this summer. The hope is that it may help make traffic heading through town flow faster during the busiest times of the day during the busiest weeks of the year—typically the morning, lunchtime and later afternoon time periods during July.

The idea was put forth by councilman Kent Cowherd. “Looking ahead to July, if it is like recent years, we will be a bit overwhelmed for a couple weeks and that includes traffic. Cars are typically backed up a couple times a day. Is there any way to not be so overwhelmed?” he asked. “The idea of manned personnel directing traffic at the three stop signs along Sixth can keep traffic moving during particular times of the day. Are there any other solutions?”

Town manager Dara MacDonald wrote a memo stating that there is not sufficient staffing within the marshal’s office to provide the service. She said hiring part-time people to control traffic would also be a challenge. She suggested, “If the council’s concern is to keep vehicles flowing through town on Sixth Street, you may want to revisit the recommendations from the 2015 Transportation Plan for suggestions on long-term solutions.”

One suggestion in that report was construction of a roundabout.

Two of the intersections come under the jurisdiction of CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation). Public works director Rodney Due told the council that initial conversations with CDOT representatives about the idea were not encouraging. “But I was given the name of another person in the department to discuss this with and they haven’t called me back,” he reported at the April 16 meeting.

Due said those hired for traffic control would have to be “flagger certified” and he said it might be difficult to find such qualified people to do the job part-time.

Crested Butte chief marshal Mike Reily said four to six certified people would likely be needed to provide the service. Given the training, the timing and the amount of days the council wanted to have personnel on scene, the cost would range basically between $5,000 and $25,000.

“We’ve never tried this before so it could work,” said Reily. “It is not impossible to do but traffic through the intersections needs to be coordinated to work smoothly. The hardest part is controlling the pedestrians and bicycles.”

Reily said the element that makes such traffic control situations work when used, such as on the Fourth of July, is the town’s 15 mile per hour speed limit.

“I would like to look at this,” said councilman Chris Haver. “Is it a help? Or is it overkill for our needs? Is there interest from the public to fill the positions?”

Reily also brought up the philosophical question of the request. “Will it change the philosophical natures of the community that is pedestrian- and bike-friendly?” he asked. “By making driving more efficient for people and easier to get through town, it makes driving more appealing. People might decide they’ll drive instead of taking the bus or a bike. That’s the bigger picture conversation to discuss. If it is easier to drive, people will drive.”

Mayor Jim Schmidt said it was best to officially hear back from CDOT on their perspective and have the council discuss the idea further at the May 7 meeting.

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