City pulls plug

Council requests changes for Mount Werner traffic light

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The traffic light at Mount Werner Road and Central Park Drive, which has been frustrating drivers for more than a month, will be turned to flashing red and yellow lights.

The change comes at the request of Steamboat Springs City Council members, who, at Tuesday night's meeting, said the light continued to impede traffic despite recent improvements.

Councilman Loui Antonucci said traffic on Mount Werner Road backed up to underneath the U.S. Highway 40 underpass when the light turned red at a time when he saw very few right or left turns being made.

"Maybe once Wildhorse Market opens up, it will be appropriate to turn it on, but I see it more as an impediment to traffic," Antonucci said.

Director of Public Works Jim Weber said the light will be changed soon to show red flashing lights to the side streets and yellow flashing lights to Mount Werner Road traffic. Before the light can change, signage put up for the operating lights must be taken down or covered.

The signal was put in place after a traffic study showed that new commercial developments at the intersection would warrant a traffic light in the area. The developers were required to pay for and build the traffic light to city standards.

"The light, if working exactly right, will make traffic better," Hughes said. "It is already making transitional left turns better."

In a 6-1 vote, the council members agreed to turn the traffic signal from regular operation to flashing lights but said the signal could be returned to function as intended at the city staff's discretion. Gart Sports, which is in the Wildhorse Market development, is expected to open in the next few weeks and could create more turning traffic at the intersection.

Some council members questioned whether the decision was too rash and whether the city should wait until after the busy holiday season.

"I am equally as frustrated with this," Councilwoman Kathy Connell said. "But, maybe we are being a little too impulsive."

Last month, drivers complained to the council about the timing of the light, the way the left-hand turn signal into Central Park Drive is placed and the confusing signs indicating no right turns onto Mount Werner Road.

At Tuesday's council meeting, Weber said the contractor that installed the light fixed the major problems Nov. 22. Lights that were burnt out were replaced. A system that automatically turns lights green for emergency vehicles was installed. Cameras that indicated when vehicles are at side streets also were refocused.

With the modifications, the traffic light is timed to give 60 seconds for through traffic on Mount Werner Road. The side roads get 20 to 30 seconds to turn if the cameras identify cars waiting.

A sign on Central Park Drive that drivers misinterpreted to read no right turn on red was replaced. The new sign uses the word "arrow" instead of an arrow symbol to clarify that drivers are not allowed to turn right on a red arrow.

With the improvements made, Weber said, the city gave the developers an oral agreement that the traffic light was acceptable and would be taken over by the city. The official hand-over has yet to occur, but the decision to change the signal to flashing lights will not affect the timeframe for it.

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