Slow down! CB South gets speed limit reduction on upper roads

“It’s like the Wild West out here…”

[  By Katherine Nettles  ]

New speed limit signs were installed along some key streets in Crested Butte South in late August to reflect a reduced speed limit for the steep, winding roads leading to what is known as the Highlands portion of the subdivision. And while some people consider the reduced speed limit a sign of progress, others consider the signs woefully inadequate as they face continued speeding, reckless driving and at times hostile exchanges between drivers and pedestrians. 

The Gunnison County sheriff’s department, the county attorney’s office, Crested Butte South Property Owners Association (POA) and Crested Butte South Metro District all say they are working on further solutions to increase traffic safety and in the meantime, residents have formed a citizens committee calling for more law enforcement protection and swifter action. 

Gunnison County Sheriff John Gallowich acknowledged residents’ safety concerns and said he shared in those concerns during a CB South POA meeting last spring. He then followed up with speed monitoring in the area, suggested collaborating with the county and the POA to create a new sheriff’s substation in CB South and has joined other county departments and staff investigating how to make other safety improvements. 

Gallowich discussed a general plan with the POA to eventually bring a resolution to Gunnison County commissioners for a uniform 20 mph speed limit throughout CB South. That is a more complex undertaking but in the meantime county staff determined this summer that Cascadilla, Blackstock, and Goren Streets qualify as ‘winding mountain roads,’ under Colorado state law and therefore have a default speed limit of 20 miles per hour as opposed to the previously assumed 25 miles per hour. On August 30, county staff put up 20 mph speed limit signs on those roads leading up the hillside.  

County attorney Matthew Hoyt says the previous limit of 25 mph was inaccurate. “Under Colorado law, narrow, winding mountain roads or roads with blind curves have a presumptive speed limit of 20 mph. County public works staff, in cooperation with the sheriff, determined that all the public roads in upper CB South meet this definition. Therefore, county staff proceeded to change the signs to reflect the accurate speed limit for these roads.

“Regarding the remaining roads in the subdivision, county and sheriff’s office staff are working with both the POA and the CB South Metro District to explore whether a change in speed limits on additional roads, which under Colorado law would require both a study involving a traffic engineer and board of county commissioner approval, is warranted.  We hope to have answers on that question soon,” says Hoyt.

POA manager Derek Harwell has been fielding many calls for additional measures. “There have been some very contentious incidents with all sorts of traffic issues this year in CB South, but especially up the hill with the steep section of Bryant being the most egregious stretch,” he explains. He says he feels optimistic that there is progress and effort at play and tries to communicate that to the concerned residents.  

“Steps like the new speed limit have come through building relationships from which we can lean into the county to provide the services we pay for with our property taxes,” Harwell says. “I just see the 20 mph as a huge win for CB South, as a significant number of people have pushed to address the speeding issue. We now have some of those other steps of additional traffic calming mechanisms and enforcement to keep working on in conjunction.”

Damien Hawcroft has lived on Bryant Street for about six years, and says he has noticed a worsening problem there with an influx of people moving in or purchasing vacation home property and with construction traffic degrading the road infrastructure.

“Yes, I live up where the problems are,” he says. “I think it’s great that the county approved the change in the speed limit.” But he wants more. 

Hawcroft describes multiple instances of drivers almost crashing into his property, unlicensed dirt bikes and OHVs speeding out of control on the road, and “I’ve almost been run over. Frequently when I flag someone down asking them to slow down there is abusive language directed at me. One person went through my fence, ripped out two trees and only came to a stop when they hit some large rocks,” he recalls. That incident took place in 2020, and Hawcroft insisted that the driver stay on the scene and called law enforcement. The driver was cited for reckless driving. 

Recently Hawcroft says he was biking down the hill to pick up his two-year old from childcare when a speeding driver gave him a scare around a blind corner and proceeded to threaten him with assault. “That was dumbfounding,” he says.  

Hawcroft has formed a citizens committee with some of his neighbors and he is keeping a logbook of incidents and accidents. He and others want more signs, traffic calming measures such as digital radars, speed bumps, speed cameras “that would actually issue fines,” and more police presence. He says he has spoken with the Metro district, the sheriff’s department and the POA. “No one is taking any responsibility either. No one is willing to own the problem.

“Mt. CB police need to come down for a regularly scheduled time slot here to enforce this. They are contracted to enforce CB South traffic laws. And they are never here apart from an emergency,” he says.

Last, there are increasing calls for road improvements like paving the streets in the areas of CB South that remain gravel and dirt. “The roads themselves are awful for the amount of people that are driving, and building homes, and all the truck traffic,” says Hawcroft. He cited correlations between poor roads and reckless driving. “It’s like the Wild West out here.”

The POA has been looking into the paving prospect as well. 

“What I have tried to express,” concludes Harwell, “is that this is one issue within a larger set. The enforcement for noise complaints, aggressive dogs, dogs at large, unlicensed OHVs on the streets, as well as speeding and reckless driving all reside with the sheriff and by contract with the Mt. CB Police. It is an interesting time where we are making progress with things like the new speed limit in the areas above the flats, but residents are still frustrated with it not being enough, happening fast enough, and in each of these areas a real lack of enforcement from those who actually have jurisdiction.”

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