CDOT to re-evaluate Rifle roundabout changes
The Colorado Department of Transportation is re-evaluating some alterations to Rifle’s roundabouts that sparked safety concerns and some confusion in the community.
The decision came after a story in The Citizen Telegram detailed concerns from Rifle Police Chief John Dyer and officials at City Hall. In the past several weeks, CDOT re-striped the lanes in the roundabouts — located south of Interstate 70 — to bring them into compliance with state standards, said Tracy Trulove, CDOT Region 3 communications manager.
The most noticeable change came in the south end of the roundabout leading to Taughenbaugh Boulevard and Airport Road. The new lines completed last Tuesday force drivers in the outer lane to either exit the roundabout at Taughenbaugh or merge into the inner lane to continue through the roundabout. Dyer worried the change would be confusing for drivers accustomed to continuing in the outer lane to access one of the many businesses, including Wal-Mart and Grand River Hospital, on Airport Road.
“It comes up abruptly,” he said in a previous interview. “You have to make a quick decision in the middle of the roundabout.”
Since the changes were made, Kirk Swallow, owner of Red River Quick Mart at the corner of Taughenbaugh and Airport, said he has seen countless confused drivers try to continue through the roundabout in the outer lane. Michaela Mitchell, who works at the Kum & Go across the street, reported seeing similar sights in the roundabout, as well as hearing an increased amount of car horns.
The concerns came as a shock to CDOT, which had completed similar re-striping in other areas with almost no vocal outcry, Trulove said. Prior to the story in The Citizen Telegram, CDOT had minimal communication with the city regarding the changes.
However, an engineer contacted the city late last week to gauge initial concerns and start an open dialogue on the changes, said Kimberly Bullen, assistant city manger.
CDOT plans to re-evaluate the changes to gauge if the newly striped roundabouts are consistent with how Rifle has maintained them in the past, Trulove said. Once a determination is made, additional signage will be installed to help clarify the traffic flow pattern.
People including Clara Smith question why the changes were made in the first place. Smith and her husband, Robert, own Da Beef food truck, which operates in the parking lot of Choice Liquors off of Airport Road. Although she has not heard any complaints from customers and is a self-described proponent of roundabouts, she said the changes will confuse drivers who have intuitively been navigating the roundabouts for years.
“It’s bound to cause troubles,” she said.
The decision to change some of the lanes is intended to improve safety in the roundabouts by limiting conflict points, Trulove previously explained. However, communication between CDOT and local stakeholders clearly could have been stronger and hopefully this situation will lead to that in the future, she added.
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Officer Haley Walker sat beside her stepmother in a windowless interrogation room just before starting the overnight shift on Thursday evening.