A traffic light in your future, Minturn? | VailDaily.com

A traffic light in your future, Minturn?

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado

MINTURN ” Julie McGee waits “three or four minutes” in her car to get out of her driveway around 8 a.m. due to heavy traffic on U.S. Highway 24, she said.

So McGee would not mind a stoplight on each end of town if the Ginn Development Co. builds 1,700 homes and condominiums, a private ski resort and a golf course on and around Battle Mountain, south of Minturn.

“If it would control traffic, I would be for it,” McGee said.

Ginn and the town’s engineers have discussed putting in some kind of a stoplight to help residents like McGee get out of their driveways faster during rush hour.

Rush hour on Highway 24 is a problem and Ginn has discussed “traffic metering lights,” which would flash on and off to allow people to get out of side streets and driveways easier, said Cliff Thompson, Ginn’s director of communications for the area.

“We certainly don’t want to make it worse,” Thompson said about traffic. “In fact, we’re going to attempt to improve it.”

Ginn also has discussed using crosswalks that flash when pedestrians cross, shuttling its construction employees to and from Battle Mountain and placing welcome signs at both ends of the town that would create an expectation to drive slower.

“None of these are cast in concrete,” Thompson said. “These are options that the town and Ginn are studying and until we reach a joint agreement, nothing will be done.”

Ginn needs to come up with something better, said Jim Gonzales, who lives along Highway 24, the town’s main thoroughfare.

“Edwards is a good example of why they won’t work well,” said Gonzales, owner of construction company High Country Enterprises. “At least during rush hour, Edwards is a mess.”

Roundabouts won’t work for Minturn, either, Gonzales said.

During Minturn’s rush hour, which takes place around 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., people could wait around 30 seconds to get out of their driveways with the lights, said Mike Gill, senior traffic engineer for Carter Burgess. Some people could wait longer, he said.

One stoplight could be installed on each end of town, said Rob Singer, an engineer for Minturn.

“We’ve looked at that and have said that very well may be a viable solution,” Singer said.

But traffic lights may not be the answer, Gill said.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has the final say on whether traffic lights would be installed in Minturn and the department generally dislikes them on its highways, the engineers said.

Traffic lights “equally distribute dissatisfaction” by delaying drivers, Gill said.

Building raised, extended concrete platforms called “bulbouts” at each intersection could work better.

The bulbouts would extend into the highway about double the width of a sidewalk, would run about 20 feet parallel to the highway and then would curve back toward the sidewalk to make room for parking, Gill said.

They would ease traffic by giving drivers a better view, now obscured by parked vehicles. So, drivers would make better decisions when they turn onto Highway 24 and would keep traffic moving, Gill said.

And they could help prevent the most common accident in Minturn ” when people drive into oncoming traffic from driveways and side streets, Gill said.

Traffic is only going to get worse, Gonzales said.

Even without the development, expect an average of 1,615 more vehicles passing through town by 2023, according to a Ginn study.

That traffic and Ginn’s combined would push up the number of vehicles passing through town by almost half in the next 16 years.

That’s an average of 2,390 more vehicles per day passing through Minturn by 2023, up from 5,992 in 2006, the study says.

Ginn is still discussing with Union Pacific whether Ginn could use railroad cars to transport material through Minturn, Thompson said.

Ginn will need 137 trucks traveling from both directions to and from the development on Highway 24 each day, the study says. That number of trucks could decrease if Union Pacific agrees to let Ginn use the railroad to transport material.

Sherri Wilson commutes to work on her bicycle and does not mind the traffic. With Ginn, the truck traffic during construction would make her ride from Minturn to Edwards “much more dangerous,” she said.

“It’s just a lot more vehicles whether you put a stop light in or not,” Wilson said.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.

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