Breck area boasts two more stoplights
BRECKENRIDGE – The Breckenridge area is home to two new stoplights this fall, erected to improve safety issues and in preparation for the new roundabout.The new lights are at the intersection of Highway 9 and County Road 3 (Coyne Valley Road) and at French and North Main streets. They bring to 16 the number of lights along the 10-mile stretch between Boreas Pass Road in Breckenridge and Interstate 70 in Frisco.A third light will be installed next summer at Airport Road and North Park Avenue, but the one at North Park and North Main will be taken out once the roundabout planned for the intersection is built.Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) traffic planners installed the light at County Road 3 to help vehicles making a left turn from that road get across the highway more safely. Up until now, drivers would dart across the southbound lane of traffic and wait in the center of the road until an opening came up in the northbound travel lane.The light at French and Main streets was put up as part of the town’s and CDOT’s roundabout project at North Park Avenue and Main Street. It is meant to direct inbound traffic onto Park Avenue, which will be designated the Highway 9 route through town.The switch of Highway 9 from Main Street to Park Avenue resulted from town-CDOT negotiations based on town plans to convert Main Street into a pedestrian friendly byway, bisected at Washington Avenue and Blue River Plaza by the new Arts District.One other change brought about by the roundabout is the fact it will preclude left turns from northbound Main Street onto North Park Avenue. People used to making that left turn to go to places such as City Market, the Summit County Justice Center and the Breckenridge Recreation Center will have to use alternate routes, such as the new stoplight at French and Main streets or the stoplight at Valley Brook Road.At the roundabout, construction started last month on the bridge abutments on which a “sweeping” lane of traffic will divert traffic from Highway 9 to Park Avenue. Construction on the roundabout, including four-laning the north end, blasting the eastern hillside at Park Avenue and removing the existing signal at North Park and Main, will resume next spring.Other construction plans include redesigning the intersection at South Park Avenue and Main Street to divert traffic more smoothly onto South Park Avenue and installing a traffic signal at Airport Road and North Park Avenue.According to CDOT traffic operations engineer Ken DePinto, the intersection at County Road 3 qualified for a light because of the heavy traffic trying to merge from that road onto Highway 9. CDOT uses eight criteria, or warrants, to determine if an intersection qualifies for a light. If the intersection meets one of the criteria, CDOT will consider installing a light.”There was enough left-turning volume headed toward Frisco that people had a difficult time turning without stacking up a lot of cars on the side road and taking a lot of risk,” he said. “If you have heavy side road volume and pretty heavy main road volume, that means you might need a light.”Once the lights were installed, CDOT crews spent a day counting vehicles at each intersection. They then put those numbers in a computer simulation program that tells engineers how to best time the lights based on car spacing and turning movements.”It gives us a good starting point,” DePinto said. “From there we tweak it based on several drive-throughs at each intersection.”He said timing lights is never perfect, adding that drivers only have a 30 percent chance of making it through all the lights along the 10-mile stretch of road.”You’re never really ever done,” he said of the constant adjustments. “We’re always out there trying to make things better.” Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or email@example.com.
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