160/550 intersection MIGHT include Bike Lanes!

DWC Members;

On Monday, 1/14/2013 I had a very constructive meeting with representatives from CDOT and the City of Durango Multi Modal staff regarding the US 160/550 intersection redesign project. The intention of the meeting was to discuss the best practices for enhancing the bike lanes in the design. The meeting was held by Tommy Humphrey (CDOT project manager on the US160/550 CFI redesign) and the City of Durango Multi Modal staff; Amber Blake, Wade Moore and Deven Meinninger.

The short version of the meeting summary is this: The plan for the project area includes bike lanes, bicycle triggered signals, road markings and signs in compliance with CDOT and National standards. I believe the plan we discussed would be a huge step in the right direction for Durango cyclists and create a gateway design that shows Durango and CDOT are serious about cycling and cyclist safety. If you want the plan to become a reality, CDOT needs to hear from YOU that you want bike lanes as part of the plan!

The longer version of what was discussed at the meeting continues below. To learn how to support this effort go to the bottom of this post and read the section “How to Support this Plan.”

The meeting at the Durango Transit Center was held by Thomas Humphrey to  discuss best practices and possible treatments for cyclists making the various movements at the redesigned intersections. In addition to Tommy, the City of Durango Multi Modal staff participated in the discussion Amber Blake, Wade Moore and Deven Meinninger. Other people who might have an interest in this aspect of the project were invited, but I was the only member of the public at the table.

The project area includes: US160/550 south towards Santa Rita Park, west on US 160 to Roosa Ave., north through College, 7th Street and ending on the south side of 8th Street. (Note: the project area terminates on the roadway before the intersection with Santa Rita Park). Tommy said that the benefit of putting in the continuous flow intersection (CFI) was that it would be cost effective and still meet the project goal; to reduce congestion during peak traffic flows and throughout the rest of the day.

The CFI would cost 1/10 of the price of a full blown interchange (the plan on the books since the mid-70’s, never enacted because it was too expensive, public opposition, limited total benefit due to close proximity of Camino/College signalized intersection, etc.) and CDOT has already received $3.5M in funding. Due to the low cost of the CFI, CDOT and the City of Durango were able to expand the project area to include 550 North (Camino Del Rio) raised medians to 8th St. in order to redesign Camino and 7th street to accommodate pedestrians (and now cyclists). A redesign of the intersection of College and Camino is planned to coordinate traffic flow along and across Camino and as it joins the flow of Camino/550 from College. This project went up against other CDOT projects in front of the Transportation commission statewide, and won funding.

I asked if the CFI was the only viable option on the table and Tommy said yes. After analyzing other intersection designs the CFI was determined to be the best option for achieving the project goal and controlling cost. I asked if a rotary type intersection was considered and he said it was. He said a rotary intersection would be problematic because it would be surrounded with signal intersections, would be many times more expensive than the CFI, and would not handle traffic flows as well as the CFI throughout the day. He showed me a Federal Highway Administration spreadsheet that showed all the different types of intersections considered for this project that took into account a plethora of factors I will not get into. The data we saw clearly showed that a rotary would be a far worse type of intersection for traffic-flow. For better or for worse, traffic-flow, getting as many vehicles through the intersection as possible, is still the top priority for CDOT.

We then discussed how the CFI would look and function. In general, I think the redesign is ok as far as motorized traffic is concerned. It looks to be functional and should relieve summer congestion.

One aspect of the design that I do not like is the addition of an enormous overhead sign to be located above the road just to the north of the entrance to Santa Rita Park. The sign is supposed to alert people that there is an intersection ahead, something that needn’t be pointed out. The type of sign would be the kind you see on interstate highways to alert motorists of an upcoming intersection who are traveling at 75 MPH. Since this is the main gateway to Durango I feel this kind of sign is entirely out of place.

The others at the meeting agreed that it was out of place but apparently there are many at CDOT who are in favor of this sort of sign to alert motorists of the intersection. I feel that a different solution should be considered. If you feel the same way, send an email to CDOT (address below). Let Tommy know that we do not want the overhead sign – enormous, used for interstate highways, not appropriate as the entrance to Durango.

Tommy then described his intention to put in CDOT approved bike lanes, signs and signal sensors throughout the project area. These additions were due in large part to input from the public during two hearings held by Tommy and the City late last year. I attended and spoke at these hearings.

We discussed several possibilities for bike lanes going through the CFI, College/Camino and extending to the limits of the project. Throughout the discussion Amber, Wade, Deven and myself gave our feedback and input. We drew diagrams of the intersections, discussed where the lanes would work, ruled out certain options and pushed for the ones that seemed to make the most sense and were safest for cyclists who wish to use the roadway.

What we came up with was a comprehensive plan for bike lanes in all directions along with vertical signs and roadway striping to inform cyclists and alert other road users. I know that some of you would like to see the details of the plan, and I am happy to share what I understand, but I feel it would be premature to go into most of the details at this time. Once Tommy gets back to Amber and me with the plans and diagrams I will post this to the DWC website.

That said, here are some highlights from the discussion:

-Bike lanes will be 6′ wide with a wide white line separating the traffic lane from the bike lane. In spots where the right of way (ROW) narrows, the bike lane would be reduced to no less than 5′.

-Bike lanes, signs, and striping will meet CDOT requirements and national best practices.

-Signals that need to be activated for cyclists will use the same automatic microwave-type sensors currently in use at Trimble Lane and US 550, 22nd Street and Main Ave, and 9th Street and Camino. Microwave sensors are specifically dialed to detect a cyclist, do not require the cyclist to have any metal, work day or night and in adverse conditions including snowpack, rain, etc.

-Outside of signalized intersections where signals will control movements, when motorized traffic must cross a bike lane (i.e. cyclist has the ROW, which includes the majority of cases) green dashed bike lanes, and in several cases supplemented with signing, will be used, (such as cyclists who wish to continue South on Camino/550 and have to place themselves left of the turn lane that goes toward west bound 160). Where cyclists need to cross motorized traffic lanes, signing and striping will clearly indicate the need for cyclists to yield or stop and yield the ROW to motorists.

-Vertical signs will accompany the bike lanes, both for motorists and for cyclists.

I feel that the changes to the plan, if executed properly, will be a big step forward for Durango. For too many reasons to list, I believe that we need alternative modes of transportation in and around Durango and I believe that one of the most effective modes of alternative transportation is the bicycle.

In order to accommodate cyclists we need well marked bike lanes and separated facilities like bike boxes; it is better for cyclists and it is better for motorists too. If we can add effective bike lanes at the busiest intersections in Durango, and if we can get CDOT to facilitate putting them in, it sets a great precedent for future road improvements in and around Durango.

In order to get bike lanes in the final project design, CDOT needs to hear from the public that this is what we want. Even though Tommy and the City of Durango Multi Modal staff support the bike lanes there is simply too much old-school thinking in CDOT for it to be approved without public support. CDOT needs to be encouraged to follow their own policies and design guides, so please send an email to let CDOT know that you support this plan.

How to Support This Plan:

Send an email to Thomas Humphrey: [email protected]
Be sure to CC to Amber Blake: B[email protected]
And CC to Spencer Compton: [email protected]

In the email let Tommy know that you support of the proposed bike lanes for the CFI 160/550 redesign. Let him know that you think properly installed bike lanes, boxes and other treatments are safer for cyclists and motorists alike, and that it would be a great step towards improving the bicycling infrastructure we need in Durango. If you agree with me that the big overhead interstate sign is out of place for the entrance of Durango, please put that in the email too.

I hope you join me in supporting the proposed addition of bike lanes to the US 160/550 CFI redesign!

If you have any questions please send me an email.

Sincerely,

Spencer Compton
[email protected]