Ridge Road/Hwy 24 fails stoplight test
State considering a center ‘refuge’ lane instead

       The Highway 24 intersection at Ridge Road does not qualify for a stoplight at this time, according to a study on the weekend of June 24-25 by the Colorado Department of Transpor-tation (CDOT).
       This was in spite of the state's having chosen a high-traffic time of year to look at the intersection in terms of traffic volume, according to Terry Shippy, a state traffic operations engineer.
       A fallback possibility, which CDOT engineers are now considering, is removing the median guardrail on either side of the intersection to give left-turners from Ridge Road a center lane - also called a “refuge lane” - to turn into, he said. Currently, “you have to have gaps in both directions to make a turn,” Shippy said. “With a refuge lane, you only need a gap in one direction.”
       He said that engineers “are going to discuss this internally and see if funding is available. I don't think it will be all that expensive to tear out the raised median and put in new asphalt and restripe it.”
       He could not predict how long that discussion would take.
       The study followed a request last winter from Westside businesswoman Marti Powell, who was concerned about her mother's safety when she lived in the subdivision south of the highway at Ridge Road. Asked for a reaction to the state's finding, Powell said, “I think that's ridiculous. I can't believe they turned this down. It's a shock.”
       A similar reaction came from Kathryn Lucas, co-developer of Red Rock Canyon Estates, a new 18-lot subdivision south of the highway that also uses Ridge Road for its access. “I thought there was enough traffic before the park, and now it seems like five times as much,” she said. “Anybody who has sat there trying to make a left (from northbound Ridge Road onto westbound Highway 24) would see the necessity. I told my daughter don't ever make a left out of there. The people are coming down too fast.”
       CDOT engineer Dave Watt, the project leader for the Westside Highway 24 planning study, said that during the process there have been numerous public inputs calling for a traffic light immediately. Future proposals by Watt's team call for either a light or a grade-separated intersection at Ridge.
       For the study, a CDOT-hired firm counted motorized traffic volume at the intersection over one-hour, four-hour and eight-hour increments. Of these, the four-hour period came the closest; it had about two-thirds of the minimum traffic necessary to qualify for a stoplight, Shippy said.
       The volume analysis included consideration of the number of left-turners from Ridge Road, but the finding was that “the greatest movement was right turns,” he said. Asked if this might indicate such drivers are afraid of making lefts, Shippy said that was possible, and that's one reason the refuge lane idea is being mulled.
       In addition to the three traffic volume “warrants” (as CDOT calls them), the intersection could have qualified if it had met criteria for the number of accidents that “could have been corrected by a signal.” This warrant also fell well short, although it should be noted that the studied accident years only went through 2004. The regionally popular Red Rock Canyon Open Space had just opened to the public that fall. Shippy said this was “a good point. There might be more accidents now.”
       Of the studied years (2001-2004), those accidents deemed signal-correctable were one in 2001, three in 2002, none in 2003 and one in 2004, Shippy said.
       Shippy thinks the refuge lane might work at Ridge because of a similar experience with Highway 24 going through Cascade. There, the state had a safety issue for people getting across from the side street that led to the heavily used post office.
       Three other warrants the state typically uses for stoplight studies are school impacts, cooridor impacts and regional roadway impacts - none of which were applicable at Ridge Road, he said. The final warrant category, pedestrian use, did not apply either, because few people on foot cross the intersection, Shippy said.

Westside Pioneer article