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Safety concerns prompt project

Posted: Friday, Dec 7th, 2012

Clockwise from left Nancy Lambertson from Muller Engineering, City of Alamosa Public Works Director Don Koskelin and Colorado Department of Transportation Resident Engineer David Valentinelli review the proposed design for improvements along south Highway 285. Courier photo by Ruth Heide

Courier editor

ALAMOSA — Traveling Highway 285 will be safer in the future with proposed turn lanes south of the Highway 285/160 intersection in Alamosa to Airport Road.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is still in the planning and design stages for an approximately $3.1 million project adding left-turn and acceleration lanes on Highway 285 from its intersection with Highway 160 south to the Airport Road. The project could begin construction in 2014.

CDOT and Muller Engineering staff who are designing the project held a public open house last night to share the preliminary design and take input from community members. Public input will continue to be accepted until January 6 to James Martinez at CDOT, 1205 West Ave. (Box C), Alamosa 81101.

Muller Engineering’s Nancy Lambertson said although improvements have already been made at Highway 285 and 10th Street, where a signal is now located, this project would involve improvements from the existing median at the railroad and continue southward. Two-way left turn lanes would continue from that median all the way to Co-op Road so people could get out of the through-traffic lanes to turn into different access points, Lambertson explained.

“There would be a lane in each direction and median in the middle,” she said.

In addition, right-turn acceleration lanes will be added on Hwy 285 to facilitate safety of motorists merging into traffic.

After Airport Road, the highway would go back to two lanes.

Although the proposed lanes would tie into existing county roads, all of the work would be on Highway 285, according to Lambertson.

“The overall template of the roadway is going to stay the same,” she said.

There might be minor changes with striping or lane widening, she added.

Safety concerns are driving this project, Lambertson explained during the Thursday open house. She said the project grew out of safety assessments highlighting high-accident locations. CDOT then reviewed ways to remedy the safety concerns.

The major accident potential on Highway 285 going south is with rear-end collisions as motorists turn off the highway onto one of the many side streets and county roads intersecting Hwy 285. For example, one of the highest accident points was Hwy 285 and Eighth Street where motorists stopping to turn left have been rear ended.

The same was true on Hwy 285 south of the Co-op Road where motorists would stop in the through lane to turn onto county roads.

Lambertson said the goal of this project is to get turning traffic out of the through lanes.

City of Alamosa Public Works Director Don Koskelin agreed that is a major safety concern along that corridor. He has been involved in the planning for this project and supported it.

“It needs to be done,” he said. “Those turns on 285 can get very ugly and kind of scary.”

He said he is particularly sensitive to the safety issues surrounding left turns when traffic behind the turning vehicles may not stop because his brother was killed as a result of such an accident several years ago.

Safety concerns are even greater as speeds increase on the highway going south out of Alamosa, Koskelin added. He said the Hwy 285 corridor south from Alamosa is heavily traveled, since a large number of motorists come into Alamosa every day from La Jara, Antonito and other locations south of town.

Lambertson said the project is at the first step in design, with the project concepts being laid out on paper and reviewed.

The public meeting was held last night to hear what people thought about the project and if they had any issues or concerns with it.

For example, Alamosa resident Don Thompson encouraged planners to take into consideration bicyclists and their safety when designing this and other roadway projects.

Lambertson said comments from the public will be directed to CDOT, revisions will be made to the project design, and the project will likely be advertised and commence construction in 2014.

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