Some Mesa Cortina residents worried about summer road closure above Silverthorne |

Some Mesa Cortina residents worried about summer road closure above Silverthorne

Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News

Residents in the Mesa Cortina neighborhood above Silverthorne are concerned about safety and emergency access when Royal Buffalo Drive, one of two accesses into the densely populated area, closes for three months this summer.

The closure is part of the Town of Silverthorne’s roadwork meant to improve circulation at the base of the road, known as Buffalo Mountain Drive within town limits, and at the intersections of Highway 9, Stephens Way and Ryan Gulch Road. The work is in part to prepare for the new Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse.

In conjunction with Silverthorne’s construction on the road, Summit County Road and Bridge intends to repave its portion, which extends uphill from the large bend, Road and Bridge director John Polhemus said.

Roadwork is expected to begin in late May and last to mid-August.

Mesa Cortina resident Judy Brockmeyer is concerned about safety during the construction period.

“This is very disturbing … that is an emergency access and exit for both Mesa Cortina and Wildernest, and considering that it’s going to be during our fire season, it’s probably less than a smart move on the Town of Silverthorne’s part,” she said. “This is only one of two roads leading in and out of the two heavily populated housing areas, and to close one road totally for three months is inexcusable and a blatant disregard for human safety.”

Traffic from Mesa Cortina will have to cross over on Buffalo Drive to Ryan Gulch Road and exit through the Wildernest neighborhood access point, Polhemus said, adding extra mileage and time to the commute.

Silverthorne spokesman Ryan Hyland said town officials are working with the construction contractor and Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue to plan for detours and emergency access during the project. Meetings were scheduled for Monday and today.

“We are confident that we have a good emergency access plan and anticipate having all the information related to the closure available later this week,” he said.

The road is to undergo a complete overhaul, Hyland added, which makes the complete closure necessary. At no cost to the town and as part of the Lowe’s site development process, the “substandard public roadway infrastructure” serving the town and county on Buffalo Mountain Road will be remedied, he said. It means removing and grading much of the soil under the existing roadway to ensure lasting stability, installing a retaining wall along the road.

It’s not unusual to see temporary closures of local roads, even roads with few access points, Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue spokesman Steve Lipsher said.

“It’s probably not optimal to have one access point, but for temporary closures, it’s what we have to deal with,” he said. Discussions among the parties have led to a level of understanding and comfort about getting to residents and evacuating them appropriately in case of an emergency.

There’s also the added security of an emergency Interstate 70 on-ramp, built a few years ago, that connects Wildernest and Mesa Cortina traffic to the highway, westbound, to alleviate traffic congestion below the neighborhoods, Polhemus said. Lipsher also said significant work has been done in recent years to create defensible space that adds time for evacuation and emergency response in case of a wildfire.

“Ideally, we want to have at least two access points,” Lipsher said. “But, it’s part of normal life up there that there could be closures for maintenance reasons and construction reasons.”

He recommends residents join the Summit County Alert system to stay up to date on emergency information via messages sent directly to a cell phone or email account.

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