New median frustrates business owners
SILVERTHORNE – Business owners on either side of Silverthorne’s new median say it’s a physical barrier to the health of their establishments.
Silverthorne paid $350,000 to have the median installed. The raised concrete runs down the center of Highway 9 from the north side of the Interstate 70 interchange to Wildernest Road. The bulk of the work was completed about two weeks ago, though some decorative brick work hasn’t yet been completed.
The Silverthorne I-70 exchange, the first stop west of the Eisenhower Tunnel, is a popular stopping-off spot for interstate travelers. Two gas stations, three fast food restaurants, a liquor store and a fly-fishing shop are among the businesses on the north side of the interchange – businesses seeing changing traffic patterns with the addition of the median.
Silverthorne officials say the intensive traffic in the area made the median a necessity.
“We felt safety was the governing issue on this median,” said Silverthorne Public Works Director Bill Linfield. “Sooner or later, we were going to have a serious accident there, and we didn’t want to wait until that happened.”
Some business managers in the area say the safety issue isn’t as serious as town officials say it is.
“They say they put it up for safety reasons, but I’ve been working on this block for 10 years, and the only accidents I’ve witnessed have been at the Wildernest Road and Highway 9 intersection and the highway interchange,” said Blue Valley Liquors’ manager Dave Matovina. “That’s where the accidents have always occurred.”
Not one business owner surveyed had anything positive to say about the median.
“I get people in here every day telling me how hard it is to get into the parking lot,” Matovina said. “Business is not only down because of the drought year, but when you throw in the median strip and the construction, it’s like doubling your troubles.”
Matovina said he doesn’t yet know how much business is down.
“I haven’t looked at July numbers from last year (compared to this year),” he said. “We’re going to do that.”
Randy Crawley’s Colorado River Anglers fly fishing business operates in the same building as Blue Valley Liquors. He fears he’ll have to shut down.
“They’re going to bankrupt all of us,” he said. “Whoever decided to do this gave no consideration to businesses on either side of the road. You can’t get in the parking lot, and if you can’t get in the parking lot, it’s a whole lot easier to go another two blocks to the next fly shop. I’ve got to say 50 percent of my traffic is going somewhere else. My sales tax revenue is going to drop substantially and so is everybody else’s here.”
Across Highway 9 at the Silverthorne Texaco, manager Tom Fisk said he doesn’t think he’s lost much business, but he’s gained a lot of frustrated customers.
“It’s getting a lot of people mad because the customers can’t get out of here,” he said.
Westbound travelers wanting to get back to westbound I-70 can no longer cut across both lanes of the highway to reach the onramp, and that frustrates them, Fisk said. The median also prevents southbound Highway 9 travelers from turning directly off the southbound lanes – and across the northbound lanes – into the Texaco.
“I’ve had regular customers who have already told me they’re going to stop coming in because it’s just too hard to get in and out,” Fisk said. “It’s enough to get them to the point where they don’t want to hassle with it.”
Fisk said he doesn’t yet know how much business he may have lost.
Town officials are trying to make it easier for customers to gain access to those businesses. Linfield is in negotiations with Silverthorne Factory Stores’ owner Sam Brown to build a road from the factory stores’ overflow parking lot off Wildernest Road into the ReMax/Acorn parking lot. But the deal has not yet been sealed.
Additionally, U-turns at Wildernest Road and Highway 9, which would allow northbound drivers to turn southbound, will soon be legal.
That will happen “maybe as soon as next week,” Linfield said. Currently, U-turns are prohibited at Highway 9 and Wildernest Road.
Wildernest resident Nancy Chaffee is among those who like the median.
“It’s hard for people who are coming out from the Texaco to see, and they’ll just zoom across the four lanes of traffic to get to westbound I-70,” she said.
“Another thing, I turn left onto Ryan Gulch a lot, and people will get into that left turn lane into the Quizno’s area and back up traffic waiting to take that turn.
“I think it organizes traffic a little better. No one’s going in a direction you don’t expect them to.”
Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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