Routt County commissioners consider narrower road lanes

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— The Routt County Board of Commissioners is leaning toward reducing the lane width on a pair of popular bicycle routes to 10 feet to create additional room on the shoulders.

The commissioners confirmed Tuesday that after a work session with members of the Multi-Modal Transportation Advisory Committee on Monday night, they directed county road engineer Heather McLaughlin to re-draft the language of a new road-striping resolution to narrow the traffic lanes on Bartholomew Road/Routt County Road 22 and on the River Road stretch of C.R. 14 from Steamboat Springs city limits to its intersection with Colorado Highway 131. Those roads would join Strawberry Park Road/C.R. 36 as the only paved county roads with traffic lanes reduced to 10 feet.

Almost everywhere else in the county, lanes are 11 feet wide.

County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said Tuesday the change for River Road and Bartholomew Road is being contemplated in recognition of the heavy bicycle traffic they get.

“They are very narrow roads and they get a lot of bicycle traffic, especially tourist traffic,” Stahoviak said. “The only other roads we’ve ever had a discussion about having less than 11-foot roads was Strawberry Park Road.”

But cyclists aren’t necessarily celebrating the tentative decision. Speaking for the Routt County Riders cycling club, Robin Craigen told the commissioners Monday night that unless there is room along the side of a county road for a proper bicycle lane, they’d prefer to leave the roads striped for 11-foot lanes.

“If they have the expectation that cyclists should ride on the other side of the line, and where there really isn’t adequate room, we aren’t really interested in striping a 10-foot lane. It has the potential to create more conflicts,” Craigen said Tuesday.

Cyclists are not required by state law to ride outside the fog lines, nor will narrowing each traffic lane by a foot afford road cyclists a bicycle lane or necessarily even a shoulder for riding, Stahoviak agreed, but she said it creates a little more room for everyone on the road.

Craigen observed that it’s a challenge to please everyone when it comes to Routt County’s road system and that he considers it a plus that the commissioners are listening to the cycling community.

“We truly appreciate that cyclists have a place at the table and we’re being taken seriously,” Craigen said. And he added that some of the cyclists who attended Monday’s meeting said they felt reassured that the narrower 10-foot lanes could have a calming effect on vehicle speeds on C.R. 14.

If approved, the changes would become evident when the county’s paved roads are re-striped by mid-June. A date for a vote on the resolution has not been set.

County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said the fact that county roads vary in total width complicates the goal of increasing safety for multi-modal users.

“Routt County Road 129 varies tremendously” in terms of shoulder width, she said.

Mitsch Bush said that the road is just 25 feet wide from Steamboat city limits to Hot Springs Creek, where it widens to 28 feet for nearly 6.5 miles to Moonhill, where a highway widening project increased it to 30 feet for almost four miles. It then shrinks to 24 feet before later widening to 30 feet all the way beyond Steamboat Lake State Park to Columbine.

Elsewhere, segments of county roads may be 18, 20, 22, 25 and 26 feet wide.

The same unpredictable pattern can be found on River Road, where the road is only 24 feet wide for 4.75 miles leaving Steamboat but bounces out to 28 feet on the way to Colo. 131.

Stahoviak pointed out that fog lines aren’t just for multi-modal users.

“Motorists tell us that the fog line helps them while driving at night,” she said.

The re-striping of Strawberry Park Road was a contentious subject in 2008 when the commissioners moved to increase the lanes from 9 feet to 10 feet, thereby dropping the shoulders from five feet to four feet. A painting contractor muddied the waters when he kept the traffic lanes at 9 feet instead of the 10 feet the commissioners had specified, then painted a second set of lines at 10 feet.

Mike Cook, president of the Strawberry Park Group, said his members have grown comfortable with the 10-foot lane width where motorists coexist with cyclists, walkers and joggers enjoying the bucolic neighborhood.

“We discussed it at our annual meeting, and the consensus was that if we could keep it right where it was (at 10 feet), that would meet our needs,” he said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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