A bypass of Gem Village and some turn restrictions on Commerce Drive are still part of the Access Control Plan the Colorado Department of Transportation presented to the Town of Bayfield and area residents last week.
But CDOT officials admitted that state funding for highway projects has been reduced drastically in the past eight years, and that the plan will have to be implemented in pieces, if at all. The restriction on the Commerce Drive access wouldn't go into effect, for example, until a new intersection and stoplight are completed on the east end of town. Then, it would end left-hand turns onto the highway.
The plan covers 3.5 miles of Highway 160, from Gem Lane to just past the Bayfield town limits east of town. A recent traffic count found between 5,900 in the east end and 11,800 average daily trips in the west end, with future trips estimated at 8,700 to 17,500 in 20 years.
CDOT staff and Stolfus and Associates, the project manager based in Greenwood Village, made the presentation about the plan to the public on Aug. 14 at Bayfield Town Hall. About a dozen residents and landowners, many from Gem Village, attended.
The town will look at the access plan, if approved, as a starting point for Bayfield's internal street system to see where roads should be expanded and improved or where new roads should be built, said Chris LaMay, Bayfield's town manager. The town, La Plata County and CDOT have each put up $40,000 to pay for the study and access plan.
This process was started in part back when CDOT conducted an Environmental Impact Statement eight years ago to plan a four-lane highway between Durango and Bayfield, said Mike McVaugh, the Region 5 traffic engineer in Durango for CDOT. A local access control plan is more flexible for local communities than having to adhere to a State Highway Access Code designation, he added.
CDOT, the county, Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Town of Ignacio partnered on an access plan, McVaugh said, with work on Highway 172 and the downtown stoplight now proceeding.
"Just having the plan is what got the projects moving forward," he said.
One of CDOT's goals is to limit the number of accesses, such as driveways and small county roads, directly onto the highway. The plan includes consolidating accesses for CR 502 and 506, for example, which are a short distance apart.
Future frontage roads also will be built about 300 feet off the highway. The frontage road in Gem Village is too close to the highway, McVaugh said.
"We want your concepts, we want your input, and we want to know what gives you heartburn," McVaugh said.
The presentation is available on the town's website, www.bayfieldgov.org, and clicking on the button on the top of the page that reads US 160 Access Plan Presentation.
A comment sheet was handed out to Thursday's attendees, and comments are being accepted through Aug. 27. Next up are plan revisions based on public input, another open house in October, agency review this fall, and town board acceptance in December, followed by CDOT acceptance at the end of the year. If the town decides it doesn't want to sign off on the plan, that's OK as well, according to a slide in the presentations.
"The bulldozers are not waiting," it reads. CDOT could put portions of the plan into place if development increases traffic counts by 20 percent or more, if a publicly funded project comes into play, or if there is a safety or operational issue on the highway.
"The plan is a living document that CAN be amended," the presentation read.
Comments can be e-mailed to email@example.com or mailed to Andrew Amend, Stolfus and Associates, 5690 DTC Blvd. Suite 101W, Greenwood Village, CO 80111.