Breckenridge, CDOT to hammer out Highway 9 agreement soon
BRECKENRIDGE – A draft agreement between the town and the Colorado Department of Transportation to move Highway 9 from Main Street to Park Avenue in Breckenridge needs a lot more work before it can be signed, officials said.
The Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) outlines such things as maintenance of a roundabout at Highway 9 and North Park Avenue, land acquisition and pedestrian safety, town manager Tim Gagen said.
He still hopes a final agreement can be signed by the end of the year.
The roundabout is part of a plan to make Main Street more pedestrian friendly by routing through traffic and skiers onto Park Avenue. When the town swaps Park for Main Street, it will have more leeway to make changes that would not be allowed to a state highway.
CDOT plans to begin construction on a modified roundabout next summer. Drivers coming into Breckenridge from the north would have the choice of turning onto Park Avenue in a “sweeping T” intersection or going through the two-lane roundabout to access town, according to the design being proposed.
The sweeping turn, however, would preclude drivers who are leaving the town core from turning left from Main Street onto Park Avenue.
Instead, this northbound Main Street traffic would have to turn left on French Street, a block before the roundabout, then turn right on Park Avenue to access the Summit County Justice Center, the recreation center and other places along Airport Road.
CDOT officials also plan to place a traffic signal at French and Main streets.
The primary focus in the agreement is which entity will be responsible to improve traffic congestion at the intersection if the roundabout doesn’t work.
“Their fear is that if it doesn’t pan out, they don’t want to be on the hook to replace it,” Gagen said of CDOT officials.
Studies show that roundabouts work well to alleviate traffic congestion, CDOT resident engineer Ina Zisman said. Currently, the intersection is at a service level of “F,” or failing – a fairly typical service level for a corner with a traffic signal, she said.
Consultants with PBS and J Consulting in Denver said they believe the roundabout should bring that level to a “A” in the morning and a “C” in the evening.
Another option CDOT was examining as part of its Highway 9 improvements was to enlarge the road to six lanes, including turn lanes.
That would not only be less aesthetic, but would deliver a service level of “C” both in the morning and evening.
“The roundabout outweighs the signalized intersection in (vehicular) safety,” Zisman said. “Traffic flow will be about the same, but a roundabout is safer.”
Another factor that favors a roundabout is that it conforms with the town’s transportation plan.
CDOT engineers will evaluate the service level of the roundabout for several months after it is constructed next summer.
The roundabout will be a dramatic change from the signalized intersection there now. The sweeping T-turn will eliminate some of the Summit County Justice Center’s snow storage, and the sheer size of the roundabout will require CDOT to blast away some of the rock wall on the east side of the intersection and the corner of the hillside that juts out near 7-Eleven at County Road 450.
To protect vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians, CDOT will likely drape a fence-like mesh over the hillside to prevent rocks from rolling down.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or email@example.com.
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