PI editorial: Much-needed Buford Road improvements a safety issue for everyone

Post Independent Editorial Board

There might be some temptation to say “not my problem” to a road needing significant repairs if you don’t live on it or travel it on a daily basis.

But Buford Road’s poor condition is more than just a problem for those who live in the area north of New Castle — it’s an issue that strikes at the heart of Garfield County’s recreation opportunities for locals and visitors alike. 

That’s because Buford Road ends up being a primary artery for outdoor enthusiasts ranging from hunters and snowmobilers to Nordic skiers and leaf-peepers all looking to access the splendor of the Flat Tops. There are also haul trucks using the road for logging operations in the surrounding area.

That’s why we should all be invested in a solution that makes the road safer as soon as possible. Excessive traffic, dust, and brutal washboards make it all too easy to lose traction in one of the many blind turns and bends. Nothing can be made 100% safe, but Buford Road is a good argument that half-safe is actually not safe at all.

But even after a fatal wreck in 2022, no significant improvements have been made to the road. It’s no surprise then that locals have banded together as the West Elk Buford Road Residents Association (WEBRRA) to seek solutions from Garfield County commissioners, Garfield County Sheriff, and the U.S. Forest Service. They’ve been talking with so many different agencies because, so far, it seems that no one wants to offer more than a stopgap solution such as adding more gravel or occasionally doing some road surface blading.

WEBRRA spokesman Spencer Thomas said he appreciated the sympathetic ear of many who’ve listened, but that sympathy only goes so far. Solutions are going to require some real work — starting with an acknowledgment that the road is not up to reasonable performance standards followed by some tangible milestones so improvements can be clear and measured.

So far, the county seems reluctant to take on responsibility for major improvements and states it should be the Forest Service’s job, which the county believes to be the primary agency in charge of the road. The Forest Service seems to be following suit and has not come forward with any proposals for safety improvements. 

Now, nearly a month after WEBRRA passionately made its case to commissioners on Sept. 6, residents are once again left waiting for someone to take responsibility. To the county’s credit, they did some surface grading late this week after being notified that the logging company hadn’t made good plans to blade the road. It’s better than nothing, but blading is merely a temporary easing of some of the problems and doesn’t do nearly enough to alleviate the dangerous situation along Buford Road.

We hope that changes soon — and are encouraged that the county could take a major step toward progress by allocating funding for widening, paving, and more in the areas most needing safety improvements. On the other hand, further inaction by the county and Forest Service could end up souring what trust residents along the road have left. There’s only so long people can be told “We’ll get back to you” without them losing faith, trust, and patience.

The Post Independent editorial board members are Publisher/Editor Peter Baumann and community representatives John Stroud, Mark Fishbein and Amy Connerton.

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