Arrowhead Metro District requests county funding for new roundabout
The new roundabout would address a number of safety concerns with the current T-intersection
The Arrowhead Metro District is pursuing construction of a new roundabout at the entrance of Arrowhead Drive on U.S. Highway 6, and requested $1.775 million dollars Tuesday from the Eagle County Board of Commissioners to help finance the project.
Bob Shafer, the president of the Arrowhead Metro District, said that the roundabout would serve to remedy three safety issues that currently exist with the T-intersection. The objectives are to provide safe crossing for pedestrians and bikers, reduce traffic speed and reduce potential conflict points for vehicles.
The ECO Trail bike and pedestrian path runs along the north side of Highway 6, across the street from the Arrowhead entrance. There are currently no crosswalks located near that location, leading pedestrians to cross the 60-foot, two-way traffic road without proper signals for oncoming cars. A 2019 survey showed that an average of 28 bikes and five pedestrians crossed the road every hour.
An internal survey of Arrowhead residents showed that 67% of respondents said they need to cross Highway 6, and 62% said that they think it is dangerous to do so under current conditions.
Shafer said that the danger of this crossing is further elevated by the high speeds of cars passing through the area. Greg Schroeder of McDowell Engineering shared traffic data that his team collected, which shows cars clocking averages of 55 to 65 miles per hour on the westbound stretch of the road.
Schroeder said that roundabouts naturally force cars to reduce their speed, and are considerably safer for drivers and pedestrians compared with T-intersections.
“Anywhere you have traffic streams that either cross, or they merge or diverge, that’s a potential source where you might have a crash,” Schroeder said. “The roundabouts have been shown to have a lot less conflict points, so your severity of crashes and your frequency of crashes goes down dramatically.”
Designs for the new roundabout have already been drawn up, and have received approval from the Colorado Department of Transportation. The initial design calls for a single-lane roundabout that can be divided into a two-lane, if necessary, and includes three crosswalks with pedestrian crossing signs.
The design also includes two transit stops, to improve safety for those loading and disembarking on the public transit system. There are six ECO Transit bus stops in the area, three on each side of the road, and Jerry Hensel, the director of resort Operations at Vail Resorts, said that the lack of safe crossing to these locations is a hazard for members of their workforce.
“We’re very concerned about that for our employee safety, that we don’t have a safe cross anywhere around there,” Hensel said. “Traditionally, ECO provides safe crossing for all of their bus stops, and we’ve got three of them in the highest speed limit of Highway 6 from Minturn to Cordillera.”
The estimated cost of the full project is around $3.5 million dollars, plus a 20% contingency. Shafer said that the Arrowhead Metro District and Arrowhead at Vail Association is ready to pay 50% of the cost, and is asking Eagle County to pay the other half, a request of $1.775 million dollars.
“We’re a smaller community, we’re 2.4 percent of the households, but I think we’ve got a true need, and Arrowhead serves a lot of the community within Eagle County,” Shafer said. “We’ve got a lot of people that come in and use the facilities in there: the restaurant, a lot of people come in and bike, walk, hike, skin in the winter. … That’s why we’re asking the county to consider it.”
The commissioners were not asked to make an immediate decision to approve or deny funding, and said they will take it into consideration when planning the 2023 budget. The county already has plans to fund a number of multi-million dollar T-intersection- to-roundabout conversions, and the commissioners said they need to look at the bigger picture to determine whether to support the Arrowhead construction.
“I think for us, it’s a matter of looking at this in terms of the whole Highway 6 and what are the priorities for improvements,” said commissioner Jeanne McQueeney. “I think you’ve made a very good case for a roundabout there, but we need to weigh it along the whole road.”
Shafer said that they anticipate receiving final approval from CDOT this fall, and if the commissioners approve the funding they aim to begin construction in spring 2023.