Highway plans could include roundabout
BRECKENRIDGE – Construction on a new roundabout at Highway 9 and North Park Avenue could begin as early as next July if town of Breckenridge and state transportation officials can agree on a design before the end of the year.
Town and Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) officials have been working for about a year to move Highway 9 from Main Street to Park Avenue, both to alleviate traffic on the historic street and to provide a better way for skiers to enter and leave town.
As part of that project, the intersection of South Park Avenue and Main Street also would be redesigned to ease traffic flow. CDOT officials say the reconstruction of both intersections, relocating the bike path near the Summit County Justice Center and installing a retaining wall at North Park Avenue, will cost about $5 million.
Designs proposed at a town council meeting Tuesday night met with general approval – but a short discussion ensued about the intersection at North Park.
CDOT designers proposed removing the traffic signal at that intersection and building a modified roundabout that would include two lanes of traffic into and out of town.
The roundabout differs from traditional traffic circles in that it doesn’t permit traffic heading north out of town to turn left onto North Park Avenue. Additionally, travelers coming into town would have the choice of heading south into the roundabout or taking a cutoff that would put them on Park Avenue.
People approaching the roundabout from North Park Avenue would have the choice of turning right into town or going around the roundabout and heading north on Highway 9.
Councilmembers said they were concerned about the elimination of the left turn lane because it could confuse residents and guests who know the town roads.
People who live or stay on the west side of town in particular could be affected because one of the easiest ways to get to City Market, the recreation center, Upper Blue Elementary School and Carriage House Preschool is to drive down French Street to Main Street, turn right on the highway and then left on North Park Avenue. Few drivers opt to try to cross the street at Main and French because it is difficult to see northbound traffic leaving town, and, on most days, there is just too much traffic going in both directions to cross safely.
CDOT officials suggested the town consider either building a second roundabout or installing a traffic signal at that intersection.
Town Engineer Eric Guth said CDOT designers determined it would be safer not to allow traffic to turn left from Highway 9 onto Park Avenue. If a true roundabout were constructed, drivers turning left at Park Avenue and then right on Airport Road would have to traverse two lanes of traffic in a short section of road.
“We fought for that left turn,” said Assistant Town Engineer Tom Daugherty. “We looked at a traditional roundabout, a modified roundabout and a “T’ intersection with a signal, and this is what bubbled up.”
As designed, the roundabout should serve the town’s needs adequately until 2020, said CDOT engineer Ina Zisman.
Other work at that intersection would involve a slight realignment of the bike path and construction of a 25- to 30-foot-tall concrete retaining wall on the east hillside facing Park Avenue. If town councilmembers wanted to, Guth said, they could upgrade that wall to sandstone, similar to that along Ski Hill Road, for an additional $115,000.
It is also possible to include a sidewalk from the roundabout to County Road 450 – a priority among many who say the dirt shoulder is unsafe.
The only possible roadblock to the project lies with the county Justice Center because of county plans to add a courtroom. The courtroom and associated parking lot might be too close to North Park Avenue. CDOT will discuss the issue with county commissioners Nov. 4.
The changes CDOT designers propose making at the intersection of South Park Avenue and Main Street are a bit simpler. They include a reroute of the road to divert most traffic onto South Park Avenue and a pedestrian crossing – although whether that will be an overhead bridge or underground tunnel has yet to be determined.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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