Garfield County accepts compromise on Carbondale access issue
Debate about the best long-term solution for a problematic intersection along State Highway 133 in Carbondale went round and round for more than two hours Monday before Garfield County commissioners settled on a roundabout compromise.
At issue is what’s now an unsignalized and often dangerous intersection at Dolores Way, which serves the area west of Highway 133 including several businesses, two schools and the unincorporated Satank neighborhood.
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has been working with the town of Carbondale and Garfield County to come up with an access master plan for the stretch of highway that runs through the town.
Same as the recently completed Highway 82 access control plan in Glenwood Springs, the Highway 133 plan calls for consolidating, closing or restricting the existing hodge-podge of access points as redevelopment occurs or safety concerns need to be addressed.
Because a traffic signal already exists a short distance north of Dolores Way at Village Road and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) bus park-and-ride facility, CDOT is opposed to a new traffic signal at Dolores.
“At this point, CDOT does not support a light at Dolores, because it’s not the best thing for the state highway system,” said Dan Roussin, CDOT’s access permit manager for the region, during Monday’s county commissioners meeting.
That’s not to say that the access plan couldn’t be amended in the future and a signal allowed if circumstances change, he said.
Eventually, though, highway traffic will most likely increase to the point that Dolores Way will need to be limited to right-in, right-out only for safety reasons, Roussin said.
That change would only be made if another means of full access to the highway could be provided for the affected properties, he said.
Earlier this year, county commissioners and a group of Satank residents asked CDOT to look at an option to punch a road connection through or around RFTA’s park-and-ride to the Village Road signal. But RFTA has said it would not allow that.
A compromise recently accepted by CDOT, the town and a coalition of Satank residents would instead involve putting in a roundabout some 300 feet to the south of Dolores Way at the main entrance into what’s now La Fontana Plaza, Grand Junction Pipe and the town of Carbondale’s public works facility.
That way, motorists could turn right, or south, off of Dolores onto Highway 133, go through the roundabout, and head back north on 133. Left turns from the highway onto Dolores Way would still be allowed, Roussin said.
A future option could also be to realign Dolores Way with the roundabout. However, that would involve acquiring property now owned by Colorado Rocky Mountain School.
County commissioners said they would still prefer that CDOT reconsider a traffic signal at Dolores, and sooner rather than later.
“There should be a [traffic] light there immediately for safety reasons,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said. “If they synchronize those lights [Dolores and Village Road], I think it would work fine.”
For now, though, Jankovsky and Commissioner Mike Samson both agreed in a 2-1 vote to accept the roundabout alternative and adopt the access control plan.
Commission Chairman John Martin remained adamant that a traffic signal or the road connection to Village Road are the best options.
“There is a safety issue on Dolores Way, and it’s the school,” Martin said of the Carbondale Community School, which is located in the area. “That takes precedence over a private drive access for RFTA. We need to make sure our priorities are in place here.”
In addition to the Community School, Dolores Way serves as a secondary access for Colorado Rocky Mountain School.
Several Satank area residents said the roundabout option provides a “less-than-ideal” solution, and would also serve the town by allowing better access into and out of the town shop.
But a traffic signal is still their preference at Dolores Way.
“There are a lot of close calls, and you don’t know how many children I’ve seen almost get killed trying to cross 133 there,” said Tamar Mattorano. “Somebody is going to die at that corner.”
Multiple traffic signals serve to slow down speeding vehicles better than roundabouts, argued another Satank resident, Charles Moore.
“There’s no harm in slowing down traffic through town,” he said. “A light at Dolores is still the best solution.”
Commissioner Martin agreed.
By not allowing traffic signals where they’re needed, “it becomes not just a highway, but a freeway,” he said.
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