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With raised concrete medians preventing left turns, motorists make use of the right-in/right-out design for Sinton Road on the north side of Fillmore Street. The median work was part of the $15.1 million Fillmore/I-25 interchange project, which is nearly complete.
Westside Pioneer photo

Sinton Road access issue: CDOT, city say they're looking for alternatives

Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) engineer John Hall talks to attendees June 28 at a meeting to discuss Sinton Road just east of I-25, now that the Fillmore/I-25 interchange project has cut off the left turns that used to be allowed there. The screen behind him lists what CDOT has done so far to help out, including VMS signage on the interstate (advising motorists to use the Garden of the Gods interchange to get to Sinton Road businesses), an ongoing project to replace the Chestnut Street bridge and CDOT hiring a consultant to study Sinton-access alternatives.
Westside Pioneer photo
       No immediate solutions emerged June 28 at the second public meeting this year about Sinton Road access problems at the new Fillmore/I-25 interchange.
       But the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has hired a consultant to come up with ideas, and CDOT engineer John Hall told meeting attendees that the state agency “is committed to designing an alternative if it's proven cost-effective.”
       In the meantime, the $15.1 million interchange project's removal of left turns at Sinton has forced drivers to take longer routes to access the north-south street just east of I-25 or - according to some upset business owners - not to go there at all.
       Hall was joined at the meeting by Mark Andrew, another CDOT engineer who's been involved in the interchange project; as well as by Kathleen Krager, the city's transportation manager.
       Much of the meeting was taken up with the three officials deflecting questions from Sinton residents and business people. The answers were essentially the same as those at the first meeting in February - that restoring left turns at Sinton would be unsafe with the intersection so close to the on/off ramps and to the stoplight at Mark Dabling Boulevard.
       “We're skinning the cat as it is,” Krager said, referring to how close Dabling is to the interchange, not to mention Chestnut just west of it.
       But she did offer to consider a “stop bar” on Fillmore at Sinton to solve a related problem - cars from southbound Sinton being unable to turn right (west) onto Fillmore during busy times, when traffic backs up so much that there's no opening, despite a sign telling drivers not to block the intersection.
       Some of the citizen criticism was directed at the new diverging diamond interchange (DDI) design, which divides the two directions of traffic using raised concrete medians and (as part of that) makes Sinton lefts impossible.
       The engineers defended the DDI layout as a safe and affordable fix to an interchange that had become steadily (and even dangerously) busier since it was first built in 1960. Also, Andrew opined that with increasing Fillmore traffic volumes (36,000 a day currently), the Sinton left-turn safety issue would have cropped up in any interchange configuration. “It was just a matter of time,” he said.
      
Some aesthetic effects have been added to the Fillmore/I-25 interchange as work nears completion. Shot from the north bridge and also taking in the south bridge, the photo looks south, with interstate traffic in the background.
Westside Pioneer photo
Rick Uribe, a business owner on North Sinton, sought to prove that the city is inconsistent in its requirements. At the February meeting, project engineers had argued that not enough people turned left at Sinton to make it a major factor. So Uribe objected to a response at the June meeting implying that allowing lefts at Sinton could cause a traffic jam.
       Also affected by the DDI changes are Neil Klockziem and his wife, Sandra Daniels-Klockziem, who own Daniels Moving & Storage. Started in the 1950s by Sandra's parents, the business has been on Sinton's long dead end south of Fillmore since 1963. Both were at the meeting.
       For the past 15 years, Daniels has offered scales for the largest tractor-trailers, so they can have the required weight certification when they pass ports of entry. The problem is getting back onto the interstate because the left onto Fillmore is no longer allowed from northbound Sinton. And, going east on Fillmore, “there's no place for them to make a U-turn,” Sandra said.
       According to Uribe, Sinton north of Fillmore has about 540 residents and more than 50 business owners.
       Worsening the access problem is the closure of Chestnut Street (another way to access Sinton north of Fillmore) between Vondelpark Drive and Ellston Street since last August because of a sinkhole. November is the anticipated completion date for a new bridge.
       Fewer than 20 people came to the June 28 meeting at the El Paso County Citizen Center, which led some of those in attendance to question the notification process. CDOT officials said beforehand they had tried to get the word out (including press releases and postcards); however, a few people on hand said they had not been notified. A previous meeting, at the Holiday Village mobile home park on Sinton Road, had drawn about 75 people.
       The design consultant is CH2M Hill. Zeke Lynch, a traffic engineer with the company, said at the meeting that he is looking at “other configurations” and expects to have one or more options ready for potential design “by the end of July.”
       No new concepts were shown at the meeting, other than a sketch of a potential roundabout at Dabling and Fillmore that CDOT had already decided was unworkable. However, meeting discussion revealed that space might be available in the area of the Fillmore/Dabling intersection that could lend itself to U-turn possibilities - or even a broad “jughandle” scenario that theoretically could accommodate 18-wheelers.
       But if no access innovation seems cost-effective, CDOT's thinking is that people driving out of their way to reach their destinations is preferable to traffic accidents. “As the city grows, access may have to be convoluted to keep you safe,” Andrew told attendees.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 7/7/16; Transportation: Major Roads)

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