CDOT makes significant changes to Pine Grove Road intersection to make it safer
Steamboat Springs — By changing the traffic light configuration and geometry of the intersection of Pine Grove Road and U.S. Highway 40, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the city of Steamboat Springs are aiming to prevent tragedies like the death of Robert “Bob” Bear.
The Steamboat resident was walking on the highway and crossing Pine Grove in 2009 when a pickup attempting to make a right turn on a red light hit him, knocking him to the ground and causing him to hit his head.
Bear died as a result of his injuries. He was 77.
Bear taught at The Lowell Whiteman School for 25 years and regularly crossed the busy intersection to get from his apartment to the Yampa River Botanic Park and back again.
After the accident, the Steamboat Today reported that city officials agreed the city was “not safe enough for pedestrians” and the Pine Grove intersection was “particularly troubling.”
Five years after his death, significant changes are being made to the intersection that all aim to make it safer for the people who walk across it.
Some of the improvements, like changes to the light signals, already are completed while other steps including new curbs, sidewalks and striping are scheduled to be completed in the spring.
The geometry of the intersection and the light signalization are being modified to decrease the pedestrian crossing distances, according to a description of the CDOT project.
Drivers now are noticing they can no longer make a left turn off U.S. 40 onto Pine Grove without waiting for a solid green arrow.
It’s a change from the previous light configuration that let drivers turn left if traffic was clear and no pedestrians were crossing during a green light.
The lights were changed by CDOT after a recent traffic study determined the modification would increase public safety.
The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night asked city staff why the same configurations weren’t being made to other intersections on the highway.
Public Works Director Chuck Anderson said the traffic accident history at Pine Grove and U.S. 40, including the fatal accident involving Bear, made the intersection “jump out.”
The city qualified for a grant to improve the intersection because of the fatal accident and the history of other crashes there.
City staff said the changes will improve pedestrian safety.
“When you’re making a left and you have the option to shoot a gap in traffic, it can be easy to punch through and not see a pedestrian,” staff engineer Matt Eggen said.
CDOT also has removed a high speed right turn lane that allowed people to quickly make the turn off of the highway toward Ski Haus if they yielded to pedestrians and traffic.
The recent work was carried out by CDOT in conjunction with a major resurfacing project on the highway.
CDOT also lengthened the turn lane at the intersection for drivers turning left toward Ski Haus.
But in some cases during rush hour, drivers are reporting that traffic on that section of the highway still is sometimes backing up into the thru lanes of the highway despite the longer turn lane because of delays from the light change.
City Council raised the issue Tuesday night and asked whether any modifications could be made.
Anderson said the city was talking to CDOT about the possibility of allowing left turns without a green arrow outside of peak travel times at the intersection.
CDOT was not able to finish all of the improvements at the intersection before winter.
In the spring, CDOT plans to finish the work that includes the installation of new curbs, sidewalk, signage, striping and pavement.
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