Heat, construction wear on some drivers
SILVERTHORNE – From three blocks away, Silverthorne Community Service Officer Anne McNelly heard screaming. McNelly, on police bicycle patrol, pedaled toward the sound of the screaming and found a woman standing near a semi stopped on Highway 9 and Third Street, yelling up at the driver.
McNelly later learned the woman had pulled her car in front of the trucker while both were making their way through the construction zone on Highway 9.
“Both of them were just screaming,” the officer said. “So I stood in front of the semi on my bike and said, “Pull over.’ I had the girl pull over, too.” Once they pulled off, the semi driver decided not to press charges. We gave them a warning and told them to cool it.”
That July 17 incident is the only documented case of an apparent road rage the Silverthorne Police Department has that stems directly from the construction now ongoing in town.
That there aren’t more surprises McNelly.
“People get really fired up about the construction that’s going on on Highway 9,” she said.
Silverthorne Sgt. Mark Beluscak echoed McNelly’s words, adding that this summer’s heat doesn’t help matters.
“Because we have so much construction going on, and it’s hot, people get a little edgy, and that’s the perfect recipe for road rage,” he said. “People tend to be more sensitive, and they get slowed down. If one person perceives another person as having done something they feel they need to yell at them about, sometimes people feel like they have to address that person personally. And that’s when the problem happens.
“The key is tolerance and patience, and being prepared for the situation that you know is going to occur.”
Silverthorne’s main thoroughfare has been bogged down by a variety of construction projects this summer, including the installation of a median near Wildernest Road, median and utility work for the under-construction Target near Annie Road, and the repaving project now under way through the entire length of the town. Further complicating driving issues, just north of the town limits on Highway 9, the Colorado Department of Transportation is in the thick of a five-mile-long project.
And this summer certainly is not the first time. In 1998 and 1999, projects again disrupted Highway 9 traffic when the town reconstructed its center medians, a project ordered by the citizens who approved a bond issue for that work and construction of the town pavilion. In the summer of 2000, Silverthorne installed curbs, gutters and other infrastructure along the town center site, creating some traffic chaos.
Silverthorne Public Works Director Bill Linfield admitted the driving public has had its share of challenges, particularly this summer.
“We’ve just hammered them,” he said. “Between the highway project, the Target and the new median, we’ve definitely hammered the public. My hope and plan right now is to be doing absolutely nothing on the highway next summer.”
Because so many projects are going on at once, Linfield said, the impact is far less than had they been conducted at separate times.
“It’s a bigger impact, but for a shorter period of time,” he said. “That’s the way I look at it.”
Kevin Brown, CDOT’s project engineer for the repaving work, said the work is moving at a good pace.
“We’re hoping to get done sooner (than the original estimate of mid-September),” Brown said. “We’re very pleased with the progress on the milling.”
Milling is the first portion of the project, followed by paving.
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