As weekend warriors head out of town to two-lane highways and county roads in Teller, El Paso and Park counties to camp, fish and hike this summer, officials want to know : what needs to be repaired?
A nearly comprehensive regional study examined the pressing non-urban road needs in the region and found clear problems on US 285, the intersection of US 24 and Colorado 67 at Divide, along Rampart Range Road , among others. It also identified public transit and regional trail needs.
The Council of Pikes Peak Area Governments is seeking feedback on its Tri-County Transportation Study and hopes a completed version will set the stage for projects to receive funding. More state dollars could be available after the approval of Senate Bill 260 last year, which is expected to raise billions for transportation projects through fees, such as a levy on deliveries to the retail and a new 2 cents per gallon gas charge.
The Legislature pushed back a gas fee increase that was scheduled to begin Saturday to April 2023 as gas prices and inflation rose this spring and instead budgeted millions in general revenue.
New state funding for transportation was badly needed to address a huge backlog of projects and securing funding, including state and federal grants, should still be competitive, making local studies essential, said officials.
“We can always use more money for transportation because we’re behind schedule,” said Teller County Commissioner Erik Stone, a member of the council’s board of directors. He noted that the state budget for transportation as a percentage of overall spending has fallen precipitously over the past decades. The Colorado Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that about 22% of the state’s roads are in poor condition.
Some of the projects identified in the study will likely be forwarded to CDOT for prioritization, but others, such as Rampart Range Road, are the responsibility of local governments who must repair the roads themselves or find subsidies.
A needs study and plans can help justify expenses. For example, with a study and plans in hand for a national highway, “You can go to CDOT and say, ‘Hey, you gotta do something,'” Park County Commissioner Dick Elsner said.
The council had never done a study before of non-urban needs in the three counties which may not be getting as much attention and may be more difficult to fund, said John Liosatos, director of transportation for the council. governments.
Such work can help define problems, so they can be solved, he said.
For example, the study says the intersection of US 24 and Colorado 67 in Divide saw 33 crashes between 2015 and 2019 and 11 of those crashes injured 20 people and killed one. He found that signal visibility and sight distance could be contributing factors and recommends changes at the intersection.
Rampart Range Road, built in the 1930s in El Paso County and on Forest Service land, does not meet county standards for width, angled intersections need straightening, and better signage is needed.
In Park County, US 285 needs significant work to improve safety, especially in narrow two-lane sections with no shoulders, the study found.
Elsner said he had several “Why is this car coming towards me in my lane?” 285 instants. Also, without shoulders, cars can’t take the step to avoid another vehicle, then snag their tires on the side of the road and lose control.
He doesn’t expect US 285 to have an added lane in both directions in western Jefferson County and Park County as the study suggests because it would be so expensive, but he will continue to push to switch lanes and shoulders for safety. Such improvements could help ensure that the 45 to 50 trucks hauling gravel from Fairplay to Denver for construction get there, he said.
“I think it’s a really good start. … We never really got a really good start,” Elsner said of the study.
Work is also necessary to ensure the safety of hikers. Elsner noted that traffic around the Colorado Trail on Kenosha Pass can be blocked for several miles on either side and drivers can quickly come upon people trying to cross the road.
Currently visitors to the trailhead park along the road and would like to see the entire parking area moved for safety.
“Weekend traffic is just awful,” he said.
Planners also looked at needed bus services in rural areas, and residents said the buses could help seniors living in rural areas get to Colorado Springs for medical care. Buses could stop at Fairplay, Lake George, Florissant, Divide and Woodland Park.
“If you want to age in place, should you have to move to an urban area to get your services?” asked Liosatos. Bus service could keep rural seniors home and close to friends.
Once completed, Liosatos said he hopes the study will give weight to projects and help small staff serving rural towns feel confident to devote time and effort to applying for grants.
The Council of Pikes Peak Region Governments will be accepting comments on the draft study until July 25. ppacg.org/transportation/tri-county-study