Blue River, CDOT make progress on proposed chain-up area in town
The town of Blue River and the Colorado Department of Transportation are working toward a resolution on a chain-up area in town that would serve the needs of semitrailer drivers making their way through town while mitigating concerns of local residents.
CDOT is hoping to create an area on Colorado Highway 9 near the intersection with Whispering Pines Circle (near Blue River Town Hall) for semitrailer drivers to chain up before heading south over Hoosier Pass in the winter. Emily Wilfong, a spokesperson for the project, said the move is necessary to improve safety for truckers and other drivers making their way through the corridor.
“Hoosier Pass is just a really intense pass to travel during inclement weather, so this just really provides truckers a safe place to chain up,” Wilfong said. “… I think sometimes when we see noncompliance, it’s because they don’t have a safe place to put chains on, so I think, overall, we’re hoping this will increase usage of chains. We do know that if you’re not chained up during a chain law, there’s so much opportunity for a crash to occur that snarls up traffic and completely breaks down the roadway. So our hope is to have a safety benefit for all motorists.”
Earlier this year, Blue River officials began pushing back against the proposal, listing a number of concerns surrounding negative impacts to wildlife and wetlands along with other nuisances that could come as a result of the project, such as lighting at the station.
But for the past few months, stakeholders with CDOT and the town have been holding group sessions to discuss the concerns and come to a workable solution for everyone. Blue River Town Manager Michelle Eddy said the meetings have borne fruit.
“In July, they came back after many discussions with a proposal that takes away what we would call a traditional chain-up station,” Eddy said. “… We feel it’s headed in a good direction. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s a lot more positive than it was a year ago.”
The original proposal called for a 50-foot expansion on the west side of the highway to create a pullout area for trucks to stop during chain-up law periods. The new proposal is considerably scaled back. It would widen the roadway pavement by about 21 feet in order to create a bypass lane on the west side of the highway, which would serve as a safe pullout area for truckers to chain up in winter. During the rest of the year, the extra lane would give motorists space to move around drivers waiting to turn left onto Whispering Pines.
Changeable signage would likely be installed to inform drivers when the bypass lane is being used for chain-up operations and to reduce the speed limit, but Wilfong said there are currently no plans to add additional lighting to the area.
Wilfong also said CDOT is planning on creating a landscaping buffer within the project area, and that the department would be conducting an environmental analysis to consider potential impacts to wildlife, wetlands and more.
Eddy said the town still has some worries about the project, including how the town’s small police department will be able to handle enforcement on the roadway and the lack of a chain-down station headed in the other direction through Blue River. Wilfong said CDOT hasn’t yet identified funding for a chain-down station in the area, but the department is looking into developing designs for such a project to keep on the shelf until funding becomes available.
“It is a priority for CDOT, too, because … it’s not really practical for trucks to drive from there all the way to I-70 or wherever is safe to chain down,” Wilfong said. “It’s being thought about.”
Wilfong said officials hope to have final designs in hand by the end of next year, and construction could take place as early as spring or summer 2023.
“It’s been a collaborative effort, understanding that in a collaboration everyone has to give a little bit,” Eddy said. “I will say that so far, over the last several months, I do feel CDOT has heard our concerns, and I attribute that to the community coming together. … Obviously, there’s still work to be done, but we’re at least working together on this.”
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