Vehicles clog the westbound lane of U.S. Highway 40 during Tuesday's after-work rush. Work on U.S. 40 has tied up traffic, causing delays for emergency responders and everyone else in town.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Vehicles clog the westbound lane of U.S. Highway 40 during Tuesday's after-work rush. Work on U.S. 40 has tied up traffic, causing delays for emergency responders and everyone else in town.

Emergency responders making plans as traffic ties up town

Emergency responders work with construction crews to negotiate vehicle congestion


Learn more

For more information and updates about the U.S. 40 reconstruction project, visit the Colorado Department of Transportation's project Web site.

CDOT also will hold a public information meeting from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Centennial Hall to answer questions and field comments from the public.

— With traffic backed up for blocks during rush hour near the 13th Street construction zone this week, Routt County emergency responders quickly realized they need a plan to get through the traffic tangle.

Mel Stewart, acting fire chief for Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue, said he is talking with construction coordinators to get continuous updates and move emergency workers through the traffic as quickly as possible.

"I've driven through there twice today on routine errands and it's actually not bad during the day," he said Wednesday. "Our concern, which I think everybody's kind of concerned about, is between 4 and 6 (p.m.) when it's time to go home."

Initial reports from the Colorado Department of Transportation stated that delays of about 10 minutes could be expected, but on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, those delays lasted much longer.

CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said that construction crews worked Wednesday to improve traffic flow and by Wednesday evening, the traffic flow was changed. Both directions of travel initially were reduced to one lane, but Shanks said crews on Wednesday reopened westbound lanes and a left-turn lane onto 13th Street.

"That should help a lot, especially now that motorists can turn left at that signal onto 13th Street," she said.

Eastbound traffic still will be reduced to one lane as crews work between 12th and 13th streets, but Shanks said crews probably will move to Ninth Street by Thursday.

Construction will continue along the south side of Lincoln Avenue, moving east down the street as crews work on utilities, the road surface and sidewalks.

Once workers reach Third Street, they will switch to the north side of the street and work back in the opposite direction, to the west.

Shanks said crew members working on U.S. 40 will be in contact with emergency workers as the project moves from block to block.

Stewart said Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue has not yet had any calls that necessitated driving through the construction area during rush hour.

"One of the main areas we're concerned about is the interchange at 13th Street because there's just not anywhere for people to go," he said.

Routt County Communications Director JP Harris said he also has talked with Stewart and hopes to get a plan in place to give dispatchers a better idea of how to route responders to avoid traffic.

"It's definitely a good idea to have a plan, and we will, it's just a matter of getting the agencies together to discuss it," he said.

Local project spokeswoman Jody Patten said construction workers will help the emergency vehicles move through construction sites, and construction teams will give dispatchers daily updates on road closures.

Steamboat Springs Police Department Sgt. Dale Coyner said police officers will have to be very careful driving through the construction zone on emergency calls.

"We just have to play it very smart," he said. "We have to be very careful, very diligent and if we need to get somewhere quickly, it's going to be full-on lights and sirens."

Coyner said the officers have been cautioned to use the appropriate amount of speed and that officers will be using the center lanes, shoulders of the roads and any other way to avoid the traffic in the area.

"It will come, and it will happen," he said. "We will just have to fall back on our training and slow down. We can't do any good to anybody if we don't get there safely."

Routt County Sheriff's Office Investigator Ken Klinger said that his office has not yet experienced any delays on emergency calls, "but it's coming. I'm sure of that."


Kevin Nerney 6 years, 11 months ago

I left work at 5:30 on Tuesday nite....It took me 20 min. to travel from 7th Street to 8th Street. INSANE!!!! Lets make Oak Street a ONE WAY going WEST & Main Street ONE WAY going EAST. Lets get Police Officers and/or Traffic Officers out there to keep things moving. Or better this at NITE!!! KATHY NERNEY


Cedar Beauregard 6 years, 11 months ago

Welcome to our future... Two lanes short of what we need.. And planning our day around the traffic..


callguinness 6 years, 11 months ago

The construction is between 3rd and 13th streets, the entire length of Lincoln through town.


mmjPatient22 6 years, 11 months ago

I say we go back to the days of horses. Great fuel economy AND we could bring back jousting too!


papafu 6 years, 11 months ago

Jousting is obviously alive and well in the boat as I read all the comments on the various issues taking place in our community.


Fred Duckels 6 years, 11 months ago

This is our Halloween present from special interests that put their welfare ahead of the community at large. The retail interests have given the marching orders to deny that a traffic problem exists, hence all transportation planning and suggestions have gone in the waste basket for decades. What we have today is an exercise in futility, reminiscient of the Keystone Cops.


Scott Ford 6 years, 11 months ago

Hi Fred - I learn from and appreciate you insights on traffic issues. Can you please expand on your comment, "This is our Halloween present from special interests that put their welfare ahead of the community at large."

BTW - Although you and I often do not agree, I do enjoy our virtual "coffee chats." I think others who on occasion listen in do as well.


Tracy Barnett 6 years, 11 months ago

I thought the construction was only to be on the 3rd and 13th intersections this fall. Why would they be moving to 9th Street?


PRoni 6 years, 11 months ago

I agree with Fred. Why is this project not being done at night? Even more ridiculous for it to continue through rush hour. Shut it down @ 4 p.m. Who is making these poor decisions? The planning is atrocious.


Fred Duckels 6 years, 10 months ago

Listen up Scott, CDOT was a go on a bypass decades ago when the merchants stepped and killed the idea. To this day we have near total opposition to detouring any trafffic away from the retail corridor. The 700 development has opposition here, in my opinion, because of the retail proposed there. On traffic we are the laughing stock of the transportation field, CDOT included because of the refusal to deal with this fiasco. The west area was annexed several years ago, about our only function is to collect sales tax. In the fifties and sixties the landfill was located at the airport site and burned constantly choking everyone in the neighborhood including my dog that coughed all day. Later during the airport expansion all the city property was raped to lengthen the runway, no topsoil, It was embarassing to bid a job with this disregard for the environment. Would anyone consider doing this on the other side of town? The politics have prevented Wal Mart from helping the economy out here to attract services. The city boys in an attempt to sabotage the court moving west, cost the county an extra $739000. I have watched councils actions over the decades and the west area and the traffic problems are ignored, The merchants have given the city marching orders and no one will even admit that our traffic is a problem. If the 700 is turned down I don't see any reason to continue collecting sales tax out here, our only value seems to be spending our money in town and providing captive traffic up Lincoln. Stay tuned for more.


bandmama 6 years, 10 months ago

FOR SHAME!!!!! Not one of you are looking at the bright side, not one "valley car" has overheated in the bottlenek yet. AND as the article clearly states, the emergency vehicles are willing to drive on the shoulders if called out..(did anyone else happen to notice, there are no shoulders on Lincoln, or have I just been missing them?) Think positive!!!!!! (I hope someone recognizes dripping sarcasm...)


dave reynolds 6 years, 10 months ago

thats funny mama...the planning of this is a should be done at nite..i got grief from my daughter cause she was late for softball pracite..said i should have taken the other way what other way sheild drive to 13th then its the same me up scotty


bandmama 6 years, 10 months ago

LOL! Yes, so much could have been done at night. And quite honestly, I dont understand the waiting till the tourists were not so much in number....most of us realize that bad weather is gonna hit, people in a hurry.....suspended project. Till Spring.....


freerider 6 years, 10 months ago

Just wait till the 700 farce gets approved ....the traffic will be like this everyday ........hello


Scott Ford 6 years, 10 months ago

Fred - Thanks for taking the time to educate me about some of the history of traffic issues in this town. Like all learning it is a two way street (no pun intended).

I can appreciate the fear the downtown merchants must have felt towards a by-pass. It was easy to point to examples such as Salida and conjure up all sorts of horror stories as their reasons to oppose a by-pass during the 60's and 70's. Hindsight is always 20/20.

I think the possibility of having a large format retailer (big box) is a very real possibility for land that might be annexed. From my perspective, I could see Wal-Mart wanting to do a Super Wal-Mart (groceries and retail.) They would likely close the store in Central Park. This would result in even more traffic transiting through downtown. Just thinking about this possibility gives me a headache.

The folks that live in the west area of Steamboat Springs are an eclectic group that is often marginalized. I think how the folks who live at West Acres were initially treated regarding the placement of the New Victory Highway as an example of this. I do not think their feelings about this were even considered until they yelled loudly. Can you imagine the residents in Whistler for Fish Creek Falls neighborhoods being treated like this? Public officials would not dare treat them in this manner and that alone I think helps support from my perspective the point you are trying to make.

It seems to me that public sentiment about this issue has exceeded the tolerance level for the moment. However, like a bad smell, we will become used to it and the tolerance level will rises to some new perceived volume point. I do not think we are willing as local citizens to pay to fix this problem. If as residents, we had to pay taxes sufficient to secure a bond for $100 million - I think we would say "NO WAY" and just continue to complain about the traffic. Do you think realistically any hope for a by-pass has evaporated?


Kevin Nerney 6 years, 10 months ago

I have driven a police car on the sidewalks of New York City. When you need to get someplace fast, pedestrians get out of the way faster then cars and trucks that have no where to go. I would have driven my fire truck on the sidewalks also except that the grates leading to the basements can't handle the weight of a 40,000 lbs truck.
On another note, if the city went to property tax based financing they could make a killing on 2000 houses with SB700.


Martha D Young 6 years, 10 months ago

Sincere thanks go to Scott and Fred for the much-needed civics lessons. I didn't know that the downtown merchants have such clout, or that the Gallagher amendment causes such inequities. My husband and I joke about a bypass that would go behind Emerald Mtn. and end up at the James Brown Bridge. Can you imagine what opposition that would evoke?


Scott Ford 6 years, 10 months ago

Kevin - Like many things in life - you cannot win for losing. There is a pesky state constitution amendment call Gallagher. If, the city were to have a property tax, and IF all the 2,000 dwelling units were built, the long-range impact is that owners of residential property we would pay less in taxes. In reality, as homes are built out there our share of school district, county and many special district property tax mil levies will go down. Contingent that we do not vote ourselves any new property taxes what we pay would go down. This is because of the Gallagher amendment passed statewide by voters in 1982.

The Gallagher Amendment divides the total property tax burden between residential and nonresidential (commercial) property. According to the Amendment, 45% of the total amount of property tax collected must come from residential property, and 55% of the property tax collected must come from commercial property.

Further, the Amendment mandates that the assessment rate for commercial property, which is responsible for 55% of the total state property tax burden, be fixed at 29%. The residential rate, on the other hand, is annually adjusted to hold the 45/55 split constant.

Locally the balance between residential and commercial is so out of whack. Commercial properties pay about 4X in property taxes even though the value of the property may be the same. Because of this wackiness a financial disadvantage exist for owners of commercial property.

There is a goofy unseen benefit of Gallagher and the proposed annexation - owners of commercial property locally could all pay less in property taxes for a time. This is because vacant residential lots within the city limits are taxed at the commercial rate. The commercial tax burden of 55% is spread amongst more properties and the individual business share becomes lower. As these lots are developed into residents - business returns to paying more. As they all are developed - and the balance between commercial and residential becomes even more whacky - business pays yet more and more.

Ah, this is what makes economic development so much fun at the local level. This is just one example of many why sometimes you cannot win for losing.


mtroach 6 years, 10 months ago

Fred why not liberate the west of town, call a vote and make a West Steamboat town? You would have the county courthouse, the airport, and no traffic. Untill you come into Old Steamboat for groceries. We will have the ski area(jobs), access to the pass, and we can hold games for control of the new Library on the Fart park lawn.


Brant McLaughlin 6 years, 10 months ago

At 5th street today during the construction there was a construction worker standing at the crosswalk with a stop and go sign. Numerous people walked out into the street waiting for her to stop traffic which she would not do. Then she would inform them that it was illegal to cross. Can someone explain why there is a person with a stop and go sign standing in the crosswalk if she isn't there to stop traffic for pedestrians? She has been there for hours this afternoon confusing pedestrians and only stopping traffic one time that I observed.


Tubes 6 years, 10 months ago

how about some road patch maintenance. the street cuts at 12th are nearly 4-5" deep now.


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