Silverthorne seeks Highway 6 solutions with CDOT | SummitDaily.com

Silverthorne seeks Highway 6 solutions with CDOT

The summer slam is showing up Sundays in Silverthorne.

It's not some fun celebration, wild beer festival or new event lathered in gratuitous alliteration. No, it's the systematic pileups plaguing the Blue River Parkway, the same route Silverthorne's looking to make into the "Main Street" it's never had.

Luckily, most locals know ways around the parkway when it's a problem. Town manager Ryan Hyland acknowledged as much — and even encouraged residents to continue taking the detours — as he keyed Silverthorne Town Council in on an upcoming community meeting for a major downtown development project, the Fourth Street Crossing, being piggybacked with information about a Highway 9 transportation plan.

The dual-purpose meeting regarding the massive project, and the highway that runs right in front of it, will be at 4 p.m. July 12 at Silverthorne Pavilion.

Because the back-ups are almost exclusively from the north, generated by traffic coming from the direction of Kremmling looking to get onto eastbound Interstate 70, it's easy enough to sneak around the line of cars waiting in the left turning lane by coming at I-70 east from the north, where there's almost never a line.

The clogs are most common midday on Sundays throughout the summer, presumably when all the weekend warriors are headed home from the mountains. Regardless where they're going, the cars, pickup trucks, SUVs and RVs can stack up for blocks throughout the downtown area, sometimes farther.

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On Wednesday, Hyland told Silverthorne Town Council he fears some residents might confuse symptoms of the problem for its cause. "We always need to make folks aware we don't want to place blame on our downtown," he said, "or even on the highway through downtown and those signals, when the blame really lies on the current interchange configuration."

This comes at a time when Silverthorne's looking to dramatically remake its downtown, only 51 years after the town's founding. It's perhaps somewhat unfortunate that the most natural route for the town's new "Main Street" is the Blue River Parkway, the same state-controlled highway punctuated by the Exit 205 interchange that Hyland blames for the congestion that's beyond the town's control.

"While we call it the Blue River Parkway and it feels like a town road, right — it feels like ours — we always have to remember that when we're talking about traffic lights, signal timing, pedestrian crossings, repaving or any of those things, we're talking about the Colorado Department of Transportation," he said.

Hyland added that the town has been working with CDOT to ease the congestion, and Silverthorne police should soon regain the ability to manually override the downtown stoplights and clear out traffic as needed. Town police used have the ability to do this, but an upgrade to the lights left them without the proper "clicker."

"Historically, that's been something you need on the Fourth of July, maybe a few other holidays, or days where you might have special events," Hyland said of Silverthorne police manually running off excess traffic with a clicker. "More frequently now, we're seeing that's not just a holiday occurrence. It's starting to feel like frequent Sundays during the summer that starts to backup."

Hyland conceded that having officers stand at stoplights for hours at a time isn't a great solution, and he hopes it won't be necessary with CDOT also agreeing to give the left-turning signal "some additional green time" between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sundays.

"They're adding as much green time as they're comfortable with," Hyland said. "They like to make sure they really understand their numbers and traffic flow before they tweak things too much, but they are making an adjustment."

The problem, he emphasized, isn't with the downtown area itself. It's the interchange, which has been long studied and even has a state-planned solution.

The conclusion, according to CDOT, is a new configuration called "a diverging diamond," in which the two opposing directions of highway traffic cross to opposite sides at the freeway so neither is impeded transferring onto the ramps.

Hyland explained it like this: "You become British for five or six seconds, and then you're not British anymore."

The first diverging diamond in Colorado was built near Grand Junction. The state has since built two more in the Boulder area and Colorado Springs. When the funding for Exit 205 might come available is anyone's guess, but Hyland remains hopeful a November ballot issue could help drum up the money.

In the meantime, he also hopes people will understand the difference between the Sunday traffic jams and what the town hopes to do, with CDOT's approval, to remake the Blue River Parkway.

"Some of the things folks are seeing on those Sundays may give them concern when they hear about other things that both me and CDOT think are important to our downtown for that corridor, which include slower speeds, narrowed lanes and increased pedestrian safety," Hyland told council, adding that the community meeting could help clear some of that up.

"The changes that we're looking at with CDOT are not going to be a cause for future congestion," he said.

If You Go

What: Silverthorne community meeting for Fourth Street Crossing and Highway 9 Transporation Plan

When: 4-6 p.m. July 12

Where: Silverthorne Pavilion, 400 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne

Info: Milender White has been selected as the developer for the Fourth Street Crossing project and is preparing a preliminary plan for review during a community meeting in conjunction with the Highway 9 Transportation Plan.