Traffic study recommends changes

Christina M. Currie

Although changes to posted speed limits and limiting access to some city streets were part of the recommendations by a Colorado Department of Transportation-funded traffic study, city officials will likely address signage before other issues noted.

“We’ll review the recommendations in the plan and develop what we feel are appropriate reactions,” police Chief Walt Vanatta said. “Most of the signage issues are going to be our first priority.”

The study cites concerns with faded signs, such as the “Do Not Enter” sign at Stout and Sixth streets; inappropriate signage, such as the four-way stops along Sixth Street; and signs blocked by trees and shrubs, such as the stop sign at School and Sixth streets.

Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., which prepared the study, recommends the city adopt a routine schedule for sign replacement.

Property owners are responsible for keeping their trees and shrubs trimmed and away from signs, but many aren’t. Vanatta said the addition of another officer would help the department take on more code-enforcement issues. Officials are discussing how to handle the situation, either by initiating the lengthy and paperwork-intensive process of forcing property owners to trim their trees or by having the city do it and assess the property owner.

Vanatta hopes that property owners take the initiative instead of putting it into law enforcement officials’ hands.

A few years ago, at the request of property owners, the Craig City Council elected to place series stop signs along Sixth Street. Two accidents caused homeowners to complain that drivers were bypassing Victory Way and Seventh Street to use Sixth Street — which had no stop signs and allowed for a free flow of traffic.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devises advises that four-way stops never be used for speed control. Instead, it recommends several “traffic calming” options, such has installing speed humps or drainage pans, both of which make street maintenance and snow removal more difficult.

Studies show that drivers often ignore signage they think is overkill or unnecessary, the report reads.

Vanatta said officials are looking at options, but the final decision likely will rest with the Craig City Council.

“We’d like to make Sixth a through street, but at the same time, make it safe to travel,” he said.

There are several places in Craig where the posted speed limit is slower than state statute allows. Many residential areas are posted at 25 miles per hour, though statute requires a speed limit of not less than 30 miles per hour unless a traffic study has indicated a need for a slower speed.

The minimum speed in business districts should be 30 miles per hour.

Vanatta said research still needs to be done on Craig’s posted speed limits, what’s necessary and what’s legal.

The study pointed out several signage issues that are the responsibility of CDOT. Those include recommended changes along Yampa Avenue and U.S. Highway 40.

Engineers noted with concern the risk to drivers exiting the OP Bar & Grill. On-site parking and landscaping obstruct the view to the west as motorists are leaving. It’s recommended that six parking places be eliminated and that the landscaping on the north be relocated.

That’s not something that is an issue locally, Vanatta said. Not only is it not a city-owned street, there have been no accidents reported in that area.

“People know visibility is limited, so they’re careful,” he said.

There are other recommendations in that report that fall along the same lines.

A median at the intersection of 10th Street and Shepard Drive has no markings or signs indicating which way drivers should go. It has the feeling of a roundabout, the report reads.

Vanatta said that recommendation isn’t something officials will address. The street is traveled primarily by locals, and there have been no accidents.

“There are a lot of recommendations, some of which we agree with and some of which we don’t,” he said. “Overall, I think the study reflects we’re in pretty good shape with our streets.”

CDOT has grant money available for signage. Vanatta said officials will do a sign inventory and apply for the funds.

Road and Bridge Department Director Randy Call said nothing in the study surprised him. Although Vanatta has been appointed the city’s traffic engineer, Call’s department handles signage, both the installation and the cost.

“We do have some money available for signs, we just have to see how big the list is,” he said.

Call said nothing in the study elicits immediate concern, from the city’s perspective or CDOT’s.

Even the accident data doesn’t cite a specific cause. From 2001 to 2003, there were 258 accidents in the city — none were fatal. Sixteen percent resulted in injury.

“After reviewing the crash data, no pattern seemed to be evident as to recurring locations for any of these crash types,” the report reads.

The study does, however, give credence to Call’s adamancy that the city at least consider a full-time code-enforcement officer.

“That makes my job a lot easier if you have a good code-enforcement officer,” Call said.

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