City waiting to make traffic signal flash

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The city of Steamboat Springs is waiting until the grand opening of Gart Sports before deciding whether to turn off the traffic signal at Mount Werner Road and Central Park Drive.

On Dec. 7, the City Council directed staff to turn the traffic signal to flashing red and yellow lights because it was impeding traffic.

Two days later, City Manager Paul Hughes sent an e-mail to council members requesting that the light remain unchanged until this weekend's grand opening of Gart Sports, which is accessed from the intersection. City staff was concerned that shortly after switching the signal to flashing lights, the increased traffic going into Gart Sports would require the city to turn the signal back to how it was functioning.

"The process to convert the light either way is not simple," Hughes said, noting the city would have to cover up existing signs, turn off the arrow signals and reprogram the light's timing.

Most council members agreed to Hughes' plan to keep the light working as is, Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said.

Since the council's Dec. 7 decision, the city has not received any complaints about the light and had several requests to leave the light as it is, DuBord said.

The light has been a considerable help to the city bus system, allowing it to add a stop, and if the light were to change to flashing, the route would have to change also, Hughes said.

The council's Dec. 7 recommendation was to have red flashing lights facing side streets and yellow flashing lights for Mount Werner Road. The recommendation also included the stipulation that the light could be changed back to function as intended at the city staff's discretion, if increased traffic warrants more control.

In November, council members said drivers were complaining about the timing of the light, the signaling of the left turn into Central Park Drive and the signage indicating that right turns onto Mount Werner Road were prohibited.

When the council made its decision, city staff said the light was working as it should after a few minor glitches were fixed. Lights that were burnt out were replaced. A system that automatically turns lights green for emergency vehicles was installed. Cameras that indicate when vehicles are at side streets were refocused.

A sign on Central Park Drive that drivers misinterpreted to read "no right turn on red" was replaced. The confusion came from a symbol of an arrow being used to indicate that drivers should not turn right on the red arrow. The new sign uses the word "arrow" instead of the symbol.

Even with the improvements, Councilman Loui Antonucci said traffic on Mount Werner Road continued to back up to underneath the U.S. Highway 40 underpass when the light turned red and very few right or left turns were being made.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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