CDOT works to alleviate traffic concerns in Frisco and Silverthorne

Traffic enters the Exit 203 roundabout June 2 from Frisco to Interstate 70 west.
Photo by Liz Copan / Summit Daily archives

KEYSTONE — Colorado Department of Transportation officials met with Summit County commissioners Tuesday, Sept. 1, to discuss the department’s efforts to alleviate traffic buildup in the area. 

CDOT presented at the Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting, which served as the second quarterly update between CDOT officials and commissioners. At the meeting, officials shared updates on construction and strategies to combat traffic in Frisco and Silverthorne. 

In an effort to ease traffic coming south from Grand County into Silverthorne and other parts of Summit County, CDOT is conducting countywide signal-timing studies. 

“What we try to accomplish in doing this is to create a kind of interim relief valve for the traffic that is coming primarily from the north from Grand County and heading back to the Front Range,” said Bently Henderson, assistant county manager for community development, public works and transportation. “In the summer months, it backs up pretty significantly along Highway 6.”

After a pause in the study due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the department is continuing its efforts to ease congestion, said Andi Staley, Region 3 traffic operations engineer with CDOT. The study will include 35 traffic lights, Staley said. 

The goal of the signal-timing study is to make traffic less congested during off-peak times. There’s not much the department can do when it’s having record numbers come through the county, Staley said. 

“The reality is we can only fit 60 seconds in a minute,” she said. “When the area is just congested, and the traffic issues are due to the overwhelming number of vehicles trying to use the facility, there’s not a lot of options available within the signal-timing realm to remedy that.” 

Ultimately, the study will be beneficial for day-to-day operations of a traffic signal rather than days with abnormal amounts of congestion, Staley said. However, the department installed “manual advance buttons” for emergency services, which allow them to change the traffic signal when traffic is especially backed up, she said. 

“The important thing here is to make the most of the infrastructure that we already have,” said Tom Daugherty, director of public works in Silverthorne. “If I remember right, the last time these signals had really been timed was more than 20 years ago or so. … I’ve been here longer than that, and I’ve seen drastic changes in the flow of traffic.”

Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier, top left, asks a question during a Colorado Department of Transportation presentation at a Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Sept. 1.
Screen shot from Summit Board of County Commissioners work session

Other projects

CDOT is also working to combat traffic buildup at another problematic intersection: Exit 203 in Frisco. The department has proposed creating an underpass on the frontage road connecting Dillon Dam Road to Lusher Court. 

Once plans are finalized, construction could begin in 2022. The department recently completed a feasibility study focused on the eastbound auxiliary lane between Exit 203, the Colorado Highway 9 and Dillon Dam Road intersection in Frisco, and Exit 205, the Highway 9 and Interstate 70 interchange in Silverthorne, said Grant Anderson, CDOT’s resident engineer in Silverthorne. 

The project now will go to the Federal Highway Administration for approval, Anderson said. 

Anderson also provided an update on the Highway 9 Gap Project, which is an effort to widen the route between Breckenridge and Frisco to two lanes. The project is on track to shut down for winter by Nov. 1, he said. 

“It shouldn’t look like a construction project through the winter,” Anderson said. “And we’ll have the four lanes open for the ski season. So that will be good news.”

While the area should be easy to get through in the winter, drivers should expect more delays surrounding the project during construction season next summer, Anderson said. 

“The idea will be, in the spring, to come in and neck it back down to one lane in each direction, unfortunately, to create a work area,” he said. “I think delays next season are going to be probably bigger than what we saw this season.” 

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