Part-time Steamboat Springs resident to continue advocating for Hilltop safety improvements

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— Part-time Steamboat Springs resident Scott Owens couldn’t help but think “I told you so” after four of his family members were hit by an out-of-control car Dec. 26 on Hilltop Parkway.

Months earlier, he had approached city officials with concerns that the 35 mph speed limit was too high for the road, and it was unsafe for the pedestrians and cyclists using the shoulders. Owens owns a second home off of Hilltop and Mill Run Court, and he wanted the speed limit lowered to 25 mph to help prevent someone from getting hurt.

“Who would have known it would have been my family,” Owens said Wednesday from his primary home in Dallas.

Owens said it is a miracle his family members are alive.

It was a snowy winter evening the day after Christmas and Owens was coming back from a walk with his wife, sister-in-law and her two daughters. Owens said they were walking against traffic on Hilltop until they got to a snowbank and then crossed the road, where oncoming cars would be coming from behind them.

Owens said he was walking about 50 yards in front of the others, and he looked back to see a car out of control coming toward his family.

“We couldn’t have been in a worst spot at a worst time,” Owens said.

Owens said the car hit the four family members sending them into the snowbank, and pinning the 13-year-old’s leg. Two were taken to the hospital, and the other two went to the doctor the next day. Owens said his wife still is going to physical therapy and his sister-in-law suffered broken bones.

The driver was ticketed for driving too fast for conditions.

Owens said he emailed city officials the day after the crash and met with them this week about his ongoing safety concerns on Hilltop.

“It was a positive meeting,” Owens said.

Police Chief Joel Rae said in light of the crash, city officials again reviewed the speed limit on Hilltop, which involved examining things like the road width and sight distances. Rae said even though the road is suitable for a 35 mph speed limit, he thought it would be appropriate to lower the speed limit to 30 mph.

This is not the first time the speed limit on that stretch of Hilltop has been 30 mph.

Rae said that on May 21, 2012, the speed limit actually was raised from 30 to 35 mph, but he was not completely sure why. City officials at the time have since left the city.

Rae thinks the speed limit likely was raised because the streets department looked at Hilltop as a collector road that originally was built to help handle traffic that would otherwise use Fish Creek Falls Road, part of which is 35 mph.

In order to encourage drivers to use Hilltop, the speed limit was changed to be the same as Fish Creek Falls Road, Rae theorized.

Owens still would prefer the speed limit on Hilltop be lowered to 25 mph, but he is pleased with the city’s decision to lower it to 30 mph.

“I’m excited with what they’ve done so far, but it’s just one baby step,” Owens said. “There is a lot more action that needs to be taken.”

Owens said he is going to continue advocating for safety improvements in the area, and he would like to see a trail or sidewalk built to handle pedestrian traffic. Owens also would like the lower speed limit strictly enforced.

Police have increased their presence in the area in recent weeks and have been educating speeders about the new limit. New signs also have been installed that instructs pedestrians to walk on the left side of the road so they can see oncoming cars.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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