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CDOT, town hosting open house Thursday
11/13/2013 By: By Carole McWilliams
Will the Bayfield Parkway west end intersection with Highway 160 stay where it is, as the town and adjacent landowners want?
Will Colorado Department of Transportation allow a new north side access on 160 at the east end of town, as the town has wanted for many years?
If so, will CDOT require reduced access at Commerce Drive as part of the deal?
CDOT will host an open house on Nov. 14 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Senior Center for locals to see where things stand with the first part of all this, an access feasibility study focused on the west end intersection. Come any time during the open house. There will not be a formal presentation.
Town, county, and CDOT representatives and a hired consultant, Stolfus & Associates, have been preparing to do a feasibility study on the west end intersection that could lead to an Access Control Plan governing the highway corridor from the west end of Gem Village to the east edge of Bayfield.
In 1999, the Colorado Transportation designated that highway section as an "expressway" over town protests, meaning public accesses should be at least a mile apart in most cases. However, an Access Control Plan could supercede that.
Town Manager Chris La May gave an update on the west end intersection feasibility study to town trustees on Oct. 1.
This included a power point presentation about access control plans. One slide said CDOT's role in access management is to enforce the access code, and to require improvements consistent with that code "and the vision of local municipalities."
Another slide said corridor access plans can replace access code requirements and provide "flexibility for corridor specific conditions." It says access control plans can be amended.
Another slide says, "Good access control is good for business."
The west end intersection is an issue because the town and landowners expect a stoplight there, required by CDOT in order for the Homestead Trails subdivision to develop beyond what is there now.
The town and landowners see that as an opportunity for commercial development on both sides of Hwy. 160, with the land annexed into the town.
But CDOT's highway corridor Environmental Impact Statement approved in 2006 shows that intersection moved about a half mile east to join with a consolidated and relocated County Road 502/ 506 access on the north side of the highway.
The EIS also includes a highway bypass south of Gem Village, re-joining the highway just east of Gem Village. The existing intersection is in the mid-point between the new intersections shown in the EIS. There is no timeline for when those might happen.
The town wants CDOT to re-open the EIS with hopes of keeping the intersection where it is. The feasibility study is part of that effort.
“This is a two-phase project,” La May said. “We would introduce the idea of the access control plan at the (Nov. 14) forum.” He said the consultant working on the feasibility study, plus CDOT and county representatives would attend.
If the feasibility study leads to a full access control plan, it would go from Gem Village to just east of Bayfield.
On the east end, the town considers the new north side access essential for business and residential development in that area, and to reduce traffic flow through the Commerce/ 160 intersection.
Since at least 2000, town officials have made development at the northeast edge of town contingent on that new access.
According to Times archives, CDOT representatives agreed in principle to the new north side intersection in 2000, with the understanding that someone other than CDOT would have to pay for it.
CDOT began work on an Access Control Plan early in 2001. A draft plan was presented in Dec. 2001, showing the new north side access and restricted access at Commerce Drive. Town officials opposed that.
However, all reference to that access plan ended in 2002.
Since March 2011, local CDOT representatives have suggested that allowing the north side access at the east edge of town must facilitate non-local through traffic on Hwy. 160, making the Commerce Dr. access an issue once again.
At the Oct. 1 meeting, La May asked trustees to review a memo from Stolfus & Associates about the pending feasibility analysis.
It listed a study area from the west end of Gem Village to the east end of Bayfield. “The study area will primarily compare the highway and access configuration shown in the (EIS) preferred alternative… to any new access configurations proposed by the project team,” the memorandum says.
This and a related document earlier this year made no reference to leaving an access where it is.
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