Bayfield town trustees got a first look Tuesday evening at the draft Highway 160 corridor access plan maps from the west end of Gem Village to the east end of Bayfield.
The plan "sets the stage for our own land use planning," Town Manager Chris La May said. "It creates this backbone framework to begin all these other efforts."
The plan is a joint effort of the town, La Plata County, and the Colorado Department of Transportation. It is supposed to allow for more flexibility for local conditions, versus what is allowed in the State Highway Access Code.
In 1999, the Colorado Transportation Commission designated Highway 160 from west of Gem Village to just east of Bayfield as an "expressway" over town objections. The expressway designation means public intersections are supposed to be at least a mile apart.
"There's a lot of history here," CDOT engineer Mike McVaugh said. "The highway used to be Bayfield Parkway. (At some point) it wasn't working any more. CDOT bought all the access rights where the highway is now. Part of what this plan will do, it will soften the rigidity of the code, and it can also justify re-opening some accesses. There's some logical reason that we can see to do that."
He cited town efforts to get a new north side access at the east end of town, across from the east end of Bayfield Parkway.
"If we can open east Bayfield Parkway to the north, for us to open that, (federal highway rules) needs us to show that it will be safer and more efficient. This plan is looking at how we can justify that," McVaugh said. "There's give and take. Commerce Drive will come up. ... We need to know what you (town trustees) are comfortable with."
Commerce Drive has long been a touchy issue between the town and CDOT. The access plan map shows Commerce Drive with three-quarter access, meaning right in/right out for westbound traffic on 160, and left turn in from 160, but no left turn out from Commerce onto 160.
McVaugh said, "We aren't looking to close it, but it could be restricted. We won't do that until there's an alternative," a way for people to go east on 160. That's the rationale for the new north side access and a "jug handle" frontage road to connect west to Colorado Drive.
The town has been working since the 1990s to get a CDOT permit for the new north side access, seen as critical for commercial and residential development in that area. Until the real estate bust in 2008, there were active plans for private developers to build an arterial street going north and then west to connect with Dove Ranch Road.
The Access Control Plan process actually was initiated because of conflicting town and CDOT plans for the Bayfield Parkway west end intersection with Hwy. 160.
During public review of CDOT's highway corridor EIS approved in 2006, the focus of town and business representatives was on protecting the Commerce Drive access, not the west end of Highway 160B, now Bayfield Parkway.
The west end access became the town focus several years ago. CDOT required significant improvements there in order for the Homestead Trails subdivision to develop beyond what is there now. The town and landowners on the north side of 160 saw an opportunity for commercial development there.
But the 2006 EIS showed that intersection closed and a new intersection about a third of a mile east on 160 to align with a consolidated and relocated County Road 502 and 506 access onto 160.
The town effort to change that led to a proposed re-configuration of the west end intersection in its current location and to the current Access Control Plan process.
The maps shown Tuesday include the re-configured west end intersection as approved by trustees earlier this year. Farther west it shows the planned south bypass of Gem Village as shown in the 2006 EIS.
Potential signal lights are shown at the east edge of Gem Village, the west end of Bayfield Parkway, the existing light at Eight Corners, and one at the east end intersection.
According to the Tuesday presentation, project goals include safe and efficient local access and effective through travel; and compatibility with a local vision, including providing a plan that's consistent with local intersection priorities, that supports the economic viability of the project area, and that maintains compatibility with existing and proposed off-highway routes.
The next step in the Access Management Plan is an open house tentatively on Aug. 14 for public review of the draft plan, with a presentation much like the one Tuesday and large copies of the corridor maps for people to examine.
Next will be plan revisions in August, presentation of the revised plan in September, another open house in October, then agency reviews and final revisions in November and December, town and county approval of the plan in December, and then CDOT approval.
The nitty-gritty of the plan is the corridor maps plus a chart listing what is proposed for every access in the corridor, including private driveways and field accesses.
Consultant Elizabeth Stolfus said, "This is definitely an instance where the devil is in the details. You will be signing an IGA that has a chart listing every individual access. The pretty picture is one thing, but the really important part is what is appropriate for each location."
McVaugh said notices will be sent to every potentially-affected property owner to try to meet individually with them instead of doing that during the open houses.
He stressed that this is a long-term plan with no money tied to it. Accesses shown as closed might not be affected for a long time, such as when an existing use changes significantly or expands, or when there is an alternative means of access.