Summit County commissioners frustrated by lack of CDOT work along US Highway 6 and Interstate 70

Commissioner Tamara Pogue said she’d like these projects to be reviewed ‘holistically’

Vehicles head toward the Interstate 70 underpass along U.S. Highway 6 on Aug. 10 in Silverthorne. The interchange remains a pain point for the town.
Nicole Miller/Summit Daily News

If Summit County residents were the only ones using the community’s major roadways such as U.S. Highway 6, Colorado Highway 9 and the exits along Interstate 70, most of the negative transportation impacts wouldn’t be as prevalent as they are today. But it’s not just residents driving these major arteries: It’s also daily visitors from the Front Range, vacationers from out of state and travelers trying to get to the rest of the Western Slope.

This is the major message that all three Summit County commissioners were trying to express during a joint Summit Board of County Commissioners and Colorado Department of Transportation biannual meeting Tuesday, Sept. 28. The discussion took place during the commissioners’ work session meeting where CDOT representatives outlined new funding available through Senate Bill 260 and provided updates on various projects around the county.

Andy Karsian, CDOT’s state legislative liaison, kicked off the presentation by outlining some of the new revenue streams introduced by the passage of Senate Bill 260. According to Karsian’s presentation, this new bill is expected to generate $3.78 billion in new fee revenue. Most of these funds will be allocated to various entities and projects around the state, much of which is determined by a community’s population.

Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence pointed out that Summit County has few residents compared with the number of tourists present, and that this statistic isn’t necessarily representative of how much funding the county should receive.

“In Summit County, our allocations are often not equal to our impacts simply because we’re the most visited place in Colorado as far as tourism,” she said. “Just wondering if there’s any sort of mechanism to offset that because if we were just going off some of these other allocations, I guess I’d be feeling like we really wouldn’t be getting our fair share because we have so much more usage.”

To that, Karsian said these anecdotes are similar to what he hears from community leaders in other parts of the state and that he hopes additional federal infrastructure dollars will provide a boost where needed.

“It’s kind of funny because I hear this same exact thing from metro areas … and some of the other folks, as well, so I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “I don’t know if any of us will ever have enough money to truly address our impacts.”

Besides how funding is divided up, the commissioners were frustrated by how some projects were being handled around the county. While the commissioners commended CDOT representatives for work on the Frisco Gap Project, they had different thoughts about projects along Exit 205 and Highway 6.

Perhaps one of the biggest pain points was the Silverthorne exit along Interstate 70, known as Exit 205. In 2012, CDOT completed a study on the exit, which found that a “diverging diamond” interchange could prove to be successful. But the project was ranked as a lower priority compared to others, and it hasn’t been picked up since.

Because so much time has passed, CDOT now needs to complete a new study to ensure the same interchange would be worthwhile. CDOT’s Region 3 Program Engineer Rob Beck said funding for this study wouldn’t be made available until 2024.

Based on the traffic that exit has seen due to the Glenwood Canyon closures throughout the summer, both Lawrence and Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue said they wanted to see CDOT make this project a higher priority.

“(Exit) 205 has all of a sudden become an alternate route,” Lawrence said. “We’ve had two summers of that happening with Glenwood Canyon, and we can’t say Glenwood Canyon isn’t going to happen again.”

Pogue echoed her sentiments and noted that the traffic issues faced along Exit 205 are not limited to that specific corridor.

“The challenge is that it’s not just Exit 205,” Pogue said. “It has a pretty dramatic impact on major arteries in Summit County which is (Highways) 6 and 9. So the question that I’ve asked — and I’m still not quite comfortable with the answer that I’m getting — is what can be done in the meantime to mitigate what’s happening?”

A couple of representatives from CDOT noted that there hasn’t been a satisfying answer likely because there’s not a satisfying solution. They reported that they’d continue to brainstorm and look at ways that traffic impacts could be improved.

Things also came to a head when discussing a couple of projects along Highway 6. Assistant County Manager Bentley Henderson brought up that the county was working with CDOT to consider some improvements near the Dillon Dam Road as it relates to the proposed U.S. Forest Service workforce housing project.

Henderson also brought up traffic concerns along Highway 6 in Keystone, saying heavy trucks coming down Loveland Pass along with pedestrians crossing the highway to use the Summit Stage bus stop create myriad public safety concerns. Henderson added that CDOT and the county recently completed a study to see if a roundabout along Highway 6 and Rasor Drive could help mitigate some of these issues. The study indicated the roundabout wouldn’t be successful because the semitrailers were too big for it to work, and Henderson said the team is looking to contract a consultant to come up with additional solutions.

Dillon Public Works Director Scott O’Brien also reported that drivers traveling through the town along Highway 6 are often speeding in excess of 60 to 70 mph.

Once all of these issues were presented, Pogue said all of these projects should be reviewed on a large scale rather than individual projects.

“There’s certainly talk of work being done, but we’re not looking at it holistically because we’re holding off on the (Exit) 205 conversation,” she said. “I understand that north of 205, there may be some different perceptions of what needs to happen on (Highways) 6 and 9, but if Dillon is going to be addressing speed with you all (and) if we’re trying to work on the roundabout, we are really pushing these problems in other directions. I would just urge us all to look at this more holistically, even if we are holding off on 205.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.