Craig residents spark conversation about crosswalks on US 40
A man’s presentation to Craig City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 28 requesting a crosswalk on U.S. Highway 40 highlighted the need for a larger plan to develop highway crosswalks in the city.
Local resident James Mathey told council members about the need for a mid-range crosswalk on Victory Way between the Centennial Mall and Pizza Hut to address pedestrian safety concerns and improve pedestrian access to the new Moffat County Courthouse at 1198 W. Victory Way.
Council members acknowledged the effort that Mathey put into suggesting a solution but said that a larger study and plan for crosswalks would need to be done before a project could move forward.
In his presentation, Mathey highlighted the need for “safer pedestrian access to the newly created hub” behind McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Pizza Hut near the former K-Mart building.
There is an existing Craig-to-Steamboat bus stop in front of Pizza Hut, which could benefit from an improved pedestrian crossing. Also, surrounding businesses in the area that are currently difficult to access on foot could benefit too, he said.
Mathey pointed out that pedestrians are already crossing at this point in the highway and sometimes get stuck in the middle double-turn lane, waiting for a break in traffic to finish crossing.
The presentation provided several photos and diagrams suggesting a location for a midrange crosswalk. Mathey provided research and quotes for a Tapco crossing system, which allows pedestrians to push a button to trigger flashing lights to signal they are about to cross.
“I appreciate you bringing a solution to us,” council member Derek Duran said. “In our budget retreats, we’ve been starting to discuss funding for construction, planning and engineering for crossing U.S. Highway 40, not only in this area, but also at Walmart because there is a need. The busier this town gets, the more bus stops and foot traffic there is going to be.”
Any type of pedestrian crossing on U.S. 40 would need to be approved by the Colorado Department of Transportation, and based on traffic safety data, CDOT is unlikely to approve a Tapco crossing device at the proposed location.
Craig Mayor Ryan Hess, who previously worked as a technical accident reconstructionist investigating crashes that resulted in deaths, said he has access to a ton of data on safety measures for traffic engineering.
“What research tells us is that unmarked crosswalks are actually safer than marked mid-block marked crosswalks in particular configurations,” Hess explained. “If you get hit by a vehicle going 40 mph, your chances of dying are 85%. If you get hit by a vehicle going 20 mph, your chances of dying are only 5%.”
Hess said the first thing state transportation officials are going to look at is the speed of traffic, which is 35 mph at this location before increasing to 45 mph in the next block. This section of the highway also has a high volume of traffic with 14,000 vehicles traveling it per day.
With the high speed limit and traffic volume, installing a marked crossing at this location may create too much of a risk to pedestrians and a liability for CDOT, Hess said.
Traffic safety data shows that these types of mid-range crosswalks can actually make the crossing more dangerous for pedestrians, especially in an area with five lanes of traffic. The pedestrians, who have the right of way, often walk out into traffic, and the cars in the middle lanes may not see the flashing lights or the pedestrians because of large vehicles in the other lanes.
“That’s where it becomes dangerous because pedestrians are more likely to cross at a marked crossing,” Hess said. “They are more bold because they do have the right of way.”
According to Hess, the safest way for pedestrians to cross is in front of stopped vehicles at a traffic light. However, the nearest traffic light at the cross section of Victory Way and Finley Lane has other issues with walkability from lack of sidewalks and curb access.
Council member Chris Nichols said that based on the presentation and the current budget meetings, council is taking the issue of crossings on U.S. 40 very seriously. According to Nichols, the city has budgeted for a physical study to see what can be done for crosswalks on U.S. 40.
Once a study has been completed, the city can go to CDOT with a plan and ask for approval.
“We are working on it. I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight like you’re proposing,” Nichols said. “Until we get a study done, I just don’t see a lot happening. But we’re listening.”
Mathey said that he hopes his presentation provokes a study to improve pedestrian safety along Victory Way.
- City Manager Peter Brixius said staff is still working on negotiating a lease with Con-Edison for a commercial solar farm on city-owned property near the wastewater treatment plant.
- There will be a budget retreat on Thursday, Oct. 6, at the Colorado Northwest Community College Library, and city officials hope to have a completed budget format after the retreat.
- Council member Tom Kleinschnitz attended the Colorado Tourism Conference last week and recommended that Craig City Council focus on a short-term rental tax policy in the next year. There are 19 Colorado communities that are going to be voting on a short term rental tax this year.
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