Summit Stage considering direct Frisco to Dillon route over Dillon Dam Road
January 2, 2018
Summit County's free bus system is considering the addition of a direct route between Frisco and Dillon over Dillon Dam Road, a move that would significantly reduce travel times and ease some burden on the system's busiest route.
Summit Stage riders traveling from Frisco to Dillon currently have to switch buses and get off midway down the Silverthorne-to-Keystone line, a time-consuming transfer onto the route with some of the highest rider numbers in the county.
The new route isn't a sure thing yet, but local transportation officials are exploring it ahead of the Lake Hill workforce housing project, which would add more than 430 units on the Dam Road and need bus connectivity.
Summit Stage is currently barred from crossing the Dam Road by security restrictions first introduced in 2008 in response to terrorism and sabotage concerns. The buses exceed the 13,000-pound vehicle weight limit for the road, which traverses the top of the earth-fill dam.
Summit County officials say that the Dillon Dam Security Task Force, a group of officials from local governments, law enforcement and Denver Water, has agreed that buses should be allowed to go over the dam pending compliance with certain security measures.
"We told the task force we will need to bring buses across the dam in the future because we're going to have Lake Hill there," said Thad Noll, assistant county manager. "It also shortens the trip significantly between Frisco and Dillon. If Dillon is your destination, it would save you a lot of time."
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Dillon officials are enthusiastic about the possibility, which would plug a gap in the Summit Stage system and make it much easier to get to and from Dillon on public transit.
"That's a huge step for Dillon," town councilman Mark Nickel said during a December meeting as he delivered the news to his fellow members, eliciting clapping and cheers. Nickel served on the Summit County Transit Board, an advisory body to Summit Stage.
A direct route could also bring a new bus station to Dillon, possibly at the Dillon Ridge Marketplace shopping center. With the construction of Lake Hill in the next few years, that could translate to a major refiguring of public transportation in central Summit County.
"I think Dillon really needs to take a leadership role on this over the next year to come up with a plan, because Summit Stage would love to make it work for us," Dillon town engineer Dan Burroughs told the council. "It would be nice to have that hub right here."
Opening Dam Road to buses would also give Summit Stage an alternate route when Interstate-70 is closed due to bad weather or accidents, easing disruption for riders when winter weather wreaks havoc on the highway.
No official action has been taken yet, but Noll said new routes could be unveiled by next winter or earlier. A county spokeswoman said she couldn't comment on what specific conditions Summit Stage needs to meet to satisfy the task force, citing security reasons.
The Dam Road has been subject to special restrictions since 2008, when a pair of men filming a music video on the road while it was closed caused a mini-terrorism scare.
Denver Water re-opened the road about a week after that incident, which occurred in January, only to close it again for weeks in July due to unspecified security concerns.
That decision elicited frustration from the thousands of drivers who cross the Dam Road each day, but Denver Water eventually struck a security deal with the county government and other local officials in 2008.
The ordinance, approved by the Board of County Commissioners, prohibits RVs, vehicles pulling trailers, cargo vans and vehicles over 13,000 pounds from crossing.
The road was closed to passenger vehicles from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. until the deal was amended in 2011, after security improvements were made including two guard shacks and roundabouts where the road crosses over the dam allowed the road to stay open 24 hours a day.
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