City shares plans for reworked intersection on Steamboat’s west side
Steamboat Springs has unveiled plans to rework intersections on the city’s west side, part of a larger project to expand U.S. Highway 40.
Current plans call for placing a new traffic light at the intersection of Downhill Drive and U.S. 40, which is a high priority for improvement, according to Steamboat City Engineer Ben Beall. Traffic modeling has shown that growth on Steamboat’s west side would enhance the need.
“Completing the design and putting the city in a shovel-ready position to build the intersection when funding becomes available is the current objective,” Beall said.
While the construction of a traffic light might be seen as an inconvenience, Beall said the project is necessary because about 80 people live in the Downhill Drive/West Acres neighborhood and have nowhere to cross U.S. 40 safely on foot or by bicycle.
The city has hired Steamboat-based Baseline Engineering to design the intersection and the larger project, which includes aligning Downhill Drive and Riverside Drive, installing traffic lights, planning for the future four lanes on U.S. 40, as well as improving pedestrian, bicycle and transit service to the intersection.
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Beall said the city does not yet have a cost estimate for the project, as construction costs typically increase each year. Though the project has been in discussions for several years as several city master plans and community surveys have anticipated growth in west Steamboat.
“It’s also the future subdivisions that may come online in the future,” Beall said. “There are families and kids that are trying to get onto the bus or get over to the (Yampa River) Core Trail without a place to cross 40, and we don’t want to lose site of the nonvehicular users on the road.”
While Baseline Engineering has helped the city design the project, city staff have not yet identified a funding source for the traffic light itself. Beall said he expects to do so within the next five years.
“People being able to make left-hand turns is another major benefit, but I think being able to safely cross Highway 40 is the biggest one,” Beall said.
Jenny O’Farrell, a resident at West End Village, said over several years living in Steamboat, she has seen traffic on the town’s west side continue to increase, and she hopes a traffic light would help combat some of the frustrations and safety issues with traffic.
“The difficulty sometimes with getting to and from home is becoming more difficult as time goes by because we’re having more people in town and more cars on the road,” O’Farrell said. “It would just be safer, easier and much more pleasant.”
While O’Farrell felt the project was necessary, Dave Antonio, owner of NAPA Auto and Truck Parts of Steamboat Springs, said he was concerned about the city needing to temporarily shut down surrounding roads to install the light, as he feels it would negatively impact his business.
“This takes away the entrance to our building and, in doing so, effectively shuts our business down,” Antonio said.
However, Antonio said he is working with Beall and engineers from Baseline to mitigate the impacts to surrounding businesses.
“I will do whatever it takes to make sure our employees aren’t impacted by this massive project,” Antonio said. “The engineers have been very receptive to our concerns, and we are hopeful they will push them to the proper decision makers.”
Steamboat Springs currently has 13 traffic lights throughout the city, though 10 are maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation because of their placement on U.S. 40.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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