Roundabout closer to reality

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— A road improvement project that includes a roundabout on Routt County Road 27 took a step closer to approval Tues--day.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday voted 2-0 in favor of the vacation, realignment and rededication of the county road for the fourth phase of an improvement project. Commissioners Dan Ellison and Doug Monger voted; Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak was absent from the meeting.

The phase proposes three main changes: the realignment of C.R. 33 and C.R. 27, the addition of an exit tunnel from Twentymile Mine and a roundabout at the five-point intersection of C.R. 27. The area is east of Hayden and south of U.S. Highway 40.

The changes are proposed as a way to make travel on the road safer, said Paul Draper, the county's road and bridge director. Draper said he looked at a few other possibilities, but the roundabout, which has elicited protest, was the best solution.

"I really do have confidence that the roundabout is the best intersection," Draper said.

Monger said he is tired of dealing with coal-hauling trucks on C.R. 27. The trucks compromise the safety of other drivers, he said. The commissioners granted Xcel Energy a permit to haul coal along the road. The permits are intended to be temporary, because Xcel officials have said they will build a rail spur to get the trucks off the road. The company is required to pay for improvements to make the road safer, Monger said.

Mary Brown, who was representing Xcel, said company officials agree that upgrades must be completed and that they understand their responsibility.

However, Brown said, the company has concerns about the roundabout proposal. One of those concerns is the way the roundabout would function. The company presented an alternative to the roundabout that included turn, acceleration and deceleration lanes.

For more information about the proposed roundabout and other aspects of Phase 4 of improvements to Routt County Road 27, pick up a packet at the county Planning Department in the Routt County Courthouse annex, 136 Sixth St.

Several other people express--ed concern about the round--about.

Dick Klumker, a trucker from Yampa, said a roundabout is not compatible with the large trucks Xcel plans to use. The roundabout will increase the potential for an accident as far as truckers are concerned, he said.

Klumker also said he has experience with roundabouts from driving in other countries.

"People in this country are not used to driving roundabouts," he said.

Bryan Rickman, chief of the West Routt Fire Protection District, said he is concerned the roundabout would slow emergency response vehicles. He also said he thinks Xcel's proposal is better.

Monger said he was not going to go against Draper's professional assessment.

"I'll be the first to admit that I hate roundabouts," he said, acknowledging that Draper is a specialist who knows more about it than he does. If Xcel officials or others don't agree with the proposal, he said, they should work with Draper to come up with a new solution.

The real concern is safety, Monger said.

"We will have an accident, and it will be a deadly one," he said.

Ellison said Draper spent a lot of time on the project.

"We're trying to provide a safe situation up there," he said.

Details of the project will come through the planning process; commissioners did not set a date for when that will occur.

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