Death at the Crossroads

County officials move to make intersection safer

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County officials plan to make improvements to a Y-shaped intersection on County Road 14 where numerous car accidents have occurred, including one that claimed the life of a 12-year-old Loveland boy last weekend.

Making improvements to the intersection of C.R. 14 and C.R. 14F is a priority for Routt County Commissioners.

"It is one of the worst road scenarios in the county," Commissioner Doug Monger said. "It does have a critical safety feature we need to address. We will be pushing pretty hard to get it budgeted next year."

Last Sunday morning, Joshua Johnson was killed when he was partially ejected from a sport utility vehicle that flipped at the intersection.

Johnson, who was in Steamboat Springs for a soccer tournament, was not wearing a seat belt in the accident, which also injured five other Loveland residents.

Johnson suffered a severe head injury and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Elisa Patterson, 48, who was driving the Land Rover Discovery, made the same mistake numerous southbound motorists have made at the intersection.

As a southbound vehicle enters the intersection, it comes upon a hill. A yellow cautionary sign warning motorists to lower their speed to 15 mph is posted yards before the hill. Atop the hill, a yellow arrow notifies motorists of a sharp curve.

Patterson was traveling 30 mph when she entered the curve and lost control of the SUV, which ended up flipping onto its roof.

Patterson, who suffered a broken sternum and multiple cuts and bruises, faces misdemeanor charges of careless driving causing death and careless driving causing injury.

"The problem is speed," Monger said. "Motorists try to take that curve too fast. We have done everything we can with signage."

Colorado State Trooper Brad Keadle has investigated numerous accidents at the intersection. Motorists not aware of the curve can fall victim to not slowing down enough and going off the road, he said.

Currently, Trooper David McKee is compiling a report focusing on how many accidents have occurred at that intersection, Keadle said.

Monger acknowledges the approach to the intersection can be deceiving.

"The problem is the corner is on top of the hill," he said. "It is a blind corner."

For the past six years, Ed and Cheri Trousil have operated a ranch adjacent to the intersection.

The Trousils also have to drive the road nearly every day because their home is nearby.

"I'm afraid to drive up that hill anymore," Cheri Trousil said. "People drive so fast. They don't realize that there is a drop and a sharp curve."

Cheri Trousil fears the road more in the summer months than in the wintertime.

"In the winter, people drive a little slower and will end up in the ditch," she said. "But in the summertime, the traffic is moving faster."

The couple has expressed concern to county officials about the road for the past year.

"We have pulled a lot of people out of the ditch in the wintertime, and there are numerous rollover accidents in the summer," Ed Trousil said. "It is so unfortunate so many accidents have occurred there."

Ed Trousil said, in his opinion, speed is the primary factor in the accidents.

"It is deceptive," he said. "It is such a straight road before you get to the turn."

To address

the issue, Routt County Comm-

issioners have directed Road and Bridge Director Paul Draper to look into ways the county can make the road safer.

Draper is studying designs and costs of the project so county officials can review it when it comes time to put together next year's budget.

Options county officials are examining include lowering the elevation of the road and eliminating the Y intersection, Monger said.

Monger, who is a lifelong Yampa Valley resident, has had three friends crash at the intersection.

"All three totaled their vehicles, but they were able to walk away," Monger said.

"How many near misses do we have to have? We are playing with numbers."

Johnson's death was a sobering reminder of those numbers, Monger said.

"This intersection has been on everybody's mind," he said.

"But what happened last weekend has spurred this along even more.

"As far as safety concerns we have for the county, it is the highest priority. It is a bad corner that can be fixed."

To reach Gary Salazar call 871-4205

or e-mail gsalazar@steamboatpilot.com

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