Left turns only in 26th Street safety project

       A scaled-back 26th Street safety project at Highway 24 is now foreseen to start in early 2011.
       Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) upgrades will still include left-turn-lane offsets - which traffic engineers have ID'd as the main safety problem - but will omit the once-planned addition of a northbound right-turn storage lane for 26th Street motorists seeking to go east on Highway 24.

Making use of the new offset left-turn lanes allowing better visibility on Highway 24 at the 21st Street intersection are a westbound truck (foreground right) and (facing the camera) eastbound vehicles. Similar improvements are planned for the 26th Street intersection in project expected to start early in 2011.
Westside Pioneer photo

       “It's a cost-benefit issue,” explained Colleen Dawson, the RTA project manager with Nolte & Associates. She said that the RTA is trying to be prudent with how it spends its money, and engineers decided there are not enough northbound right-turners (about 100 an hour at peak times) nor improvement in the turning radius for big trucks (none, in fact) to justify what would have amounted to roughly doubling the project cost.
       The expense for doing the offsets is predicted at around $50,000. Dawson said bids for contractors will probably go out in December, assuming final plan approval by the RTA board at its meeting that month. Once the work starts, she estimated two to three weeks for completion.
       The offsets would be like those installed on the highway in the safety project at 21st Street last August, in which the left-turn lane was moved about two feet to the left on either side to allow drivers to see past those turning left coming the other way.
       The 26th Street project had once been budgeted at $130,000, conceptually including an 80-foot storage lane and a 170-foot acceleration lane for northbound right- turners to merge with eastbound highway traffic.
       Dawson did not deny that the current situation, in which a couple of cars waiting in the northbound or southbound 26th Street through lane essentially prevents right turns until the light changes (occasionally causing long backups), is imperfect. However, she pointed out that the project was never intended to solve all the intersection's woes, that traffic problems exist all over the city and, from a money standpoint, “everything is clamped down in current times.”
       She noted for the record that any savings will stay in the fund, available for other RTA traffic safety projects, instead of going back to the RTA's main fund.
       Although creating a storage lane on paper appears to involve just moving the curb 12 feet to the east , the work would also have required relocating a fire hydrant, light pole and drainage inlet. In addition, there are drainage issues on that side of the street that “kicked up the cost,” Dawson said.
       The 26th/Highway 24 intersection was targeted for safety work after winding up as the city's ninth most dangerous in 2006, with 11 accidents, 3 of which were related to left turns.

Westside Pioneer article