Blue River officials express concerns over proposed CDOT chain-up station in town
Blue River officials are pushing back against a proposed chain-up station in town, voicing concerns about potential negative impacts to area wildlife, increased truck traffic and other nuisances.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is in the planning phase of bringing a new semitrailer chain-up station to Blue River that would be located on Colorado Highway 9 across the street from town hall. According to CDOT, the move is meant to help improve safety and traffic flow by providing a designated area for truck drivers to mount tire chains prior to heading south over Hoosier Pass.
“We want to make sure our freight community has somewhere safe to put chains on when conditions warrant,” said Michelle Peulen, communications manager with CDOT. “The last thing we want to see is someone pulling over a semitruck on the side of the road causing a crash, causing backups. We need to safely provide somewhere for them to put on chains so it encourages them to follow those traction laws.”
The proposal calls for a 50-foot expansion on the west side of the highway to create the pullout area, which would accommodate up to 13 trucks at a time or about 26 trucks per hour during chain-up law periods. CDOT is also planning new chain-up stations heading north on Highway 9 in Alma and on U.S. Highway 285 southbound near Grant.
But Blue River officials are concerned that the proposal could mean more trouble than it’s worth for residents in the area. Among the bigger issues local officials see with the project are potential impacts to wetlands and wildlife.
“Obviously, as a town, we have a significant number of impacts and concerns,” Blue River Town Manager Michelle Eddy said. “Environmental concerns stand first and foremost. That is a wetlands area … and there’s a slew of wildlife that go through there.”
The area is a corridor for fox, deer, elk and mountain lion movement and serves as a breading ground for moose, according to the town. Officials are afraid that a significant new source of noise, pollution and human presence negatively will affect the animals. Officials also are concerned about potential pollution given the project’s proximity to the Blue River, which serves as a tributary to the Goose Pasture Tarn and delivers water to Breckenridge and Dillon Reservoir.
Eddy also said the proposed lighting at the site would conflict with the town’s lighting codes and that the project was overall incompatible with the town’s aesthetics. She noted that the town also didn’t have the resources or the desire to enforce any unlawful use of the station or vehicles using it as a rest stop.
Peulen said the project is in the very early stages and that the department is looking into ways to mitigate resident and town concerns. She noted that CDOT intends to do more public outreach before the design of the chain-up station is completed.
An increase in truck traffic is also a major worry for the town.
“While we see the need for trucks to chain up, we don’t see the need to encourage additional truck traffic,” Eddy said. “… Additional traffic through the town on a narrow, two-lane highway with little-to-no shoulder is not what this community wants, and it would negatively impact the community as a whole.”
But an increase in truck traffic is likely regardless of whether a new station is built, according to CDOT. The average daily number of trucks driving south along Highway 9 in the winter increased from 204 in 2016 to 252 in 2019. An average of 23 trucks per hour passed through during peak hours in 2019, and the department expects that number to increase to 34 by 2045.
The number of active chain-law days on the highway has increased in recent years, as well, from 48 in 2016 to 79 in 2019.
“We’re seeing an increasing number of freights using that route, whether to avoid I-70 or maybe I-70 closures,” Peulen said. “… Colorado is a growing state. And growing means more freights. We want to make sure our freight community can get through those passes safely.”
Eddy also expressed frustration that the town found out about the project from private property owners instead of CDOT.
“First and foremost, they didn’t contact us,” Eddy said. “We found out about it from homeowners whose land is the land that will be impacted if they’re successful. … At that point, I met with their designer, their engineers, who basically said here’s what we’re wanting to do. So we weren’t included in the stakeholder list at all. We were left in the dark.”
Peulen said that it was never CDOT’s intention to leave Blue River out of the loop and that the department planned to contact the town after getting in touch with the private land owners.
“That was never our intent to not include any of our major stakeholders,” Peulen said. “We do see (Blue River) as partners. But as I mentioned, we’re definitely in the early stages. One of the first things we usually do is talk to property owners who are impacted.”
The project will remain in the design phase through November, according to CDOT. The department expects to begin seeking bids on the project in February 2022 and anticipates beginning construction next summer.
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