Montrose, CO – Local residents concerned for safety along U.S. Highway 550 south of Montrose turned out in great numbers last Thursday evening, April 19, to directly voice their concerns to Colorado Department of Transportation representatives in a public open house hosted by CDOT, Montrose County and the City of Montrose.
The open house, held in the chambers of the Montrose City Council, was an opportunity for local residents to point out danger zones on 550 to CDOT representatives, and their consulting firm, Stolfus & Associates, on large maps printed for the event. The 550 study is focused on a 9-mile stretch of the highway from Otter Road south of Montrose to the Ouray County line.
Residents who are property owners, business owners or frequent travelers on 550 left feedback via surveys for CDOT and Stolfus & Associates representatives to compile, study, and contemplate in future remedies.
Residents who were not able to attend can still take the survey at:www.surveymonkey.com/r/us550study
. Residents have until April 30 to respond to the survey with comments. Respondents will be placed on a list to be notified of any future 550 Access Control Plan public meetings.
Installation of centerline "mumble strips" is anticipated to begin this summer. Mumble strips are an alternative to rumble strips, which are a highway safety feature that alerts inattentive drivers that they are departing from the travel lane. Other priorities are re-striping the Chipeta Road intersection, adding deer fences and guards at multiple locations, and adding right-turn deceleration lanes.
"CDOT's goals for this event are to gauge public perception on some of the proposed changes on this project for this summer and the future," said Jarrett Spegele of CDOT Thursday. "We want feedback from everyone who will be effected by this project."
Elected officials from both Montrose County and the City of Montrose were in attendance.
Liz Blackburn and her husband Boyd live in Montrose County, but use a 550-access point just south inside Ouray County in order to reach their home. For years, they have seen countless accidents on the roadway and want to see more traffic safety measures like passing and turns lanes installed so accessing the highway isn't such a "nightmare."
"Sometimes getting on and off this road is just ... crazy," Liz Blackburn said pointing to a large map of 550.
Boyd said his elderly parents live just off 550 near Solar Road and describes the daily task of picking up their mail and daily newspaper from just off the roadway. He does this, he said, so his parents don't have to fear from completing this simple, daily task.
"There's just too many people speeding by," he said.
CDOT admits more safety measures on the roadway can only happen when more funding for such projects is allocated. The process of adding more turn lanes is the focus of an Access Control Plan, which will be a public process to begin later in 2018 that will "identify key intersection locations that may support future turn lanes."
As to the question on whether 550 will ever widened to four lanes?
According to a CDOT statement, "widening to four lanes is not planned at this time, but may occur as properties south of Montrose develop."
CDOT says passing lanes at Trout Road were identified in an engineering study, but were shown to have "a very low benefit-to-cost ratio when considering benefits to both travel time and safety."
CDOT added, "passing lanes may be built in the future as funding becomes available and they are deemed necessary."
Thursday's meeting is a result of a March 19 City Council work session where members of CDOT and the city council met to discuss solutions to safety fears on the roadway. From that meeting, CDOT and the council determined the safety process must include public feedback to determine the best possible solutions.
Residents with questions can be directed to Andrew Amend P.E. of Stolfus & Associates, Inc at 303.221.2330 or via email at Andrew@stolfusand associates.com.