Groups encounter delays on road to new road

With Meeker Mayor Mandi Etheridge listening, Sulphur Creek resident Bob Lange makes a point during last week’s meeting.

With Meeker Mayor Mandi Etheridge listening, Sulphur Creek resident Bob Lange makes a point during last week’s meeting.
With Meeker Mayor Mandi Etheridge listening, Sulphur Creek resident Bob Lange makes a point during last week’s meeting.
MEEKER I There will be a road leading to the new elementary school. That much is certain.
Consider it the Road to Somewhere.
But exactly what shape the design of the road will take — specifically, how the new road will intersect with Sulphur Creek Road — is still to be determined.
There is a deadline for the project — to have it completed by the time activities start up again next spring at the nearby Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds, which will have access from the new road.
“We need to keep moving forward,” said Town Administrator Sharon Day. “We have to build this road next spring.”
So there is an urgency to finalize plans for the road — and the intersection with Sulphur Creek.
“I would hate to go through the winter without having a decision,” said Rod Gerloff, member of the town board. “Because as soon as the snow melts, we’ve got to start moving dirt.”
To keep the project — at least the discussion — moving forward, representatives of the various entities involved in the road project — the town, the county, the school district and the recreation district — met Tuesday to talk more about the project.
“It was just a workshop, so no decisions can be made,” Day said. “We have to figure out what works best for everyone. I’m positive we can work through all of this. All of us serve the same people. The goal is to get something that is very functional, safe and will work for the community for a long time.”
Beside government entities, there’s another group that will have a say in the matter — residents of Sulphur Creek Road.
“I’m not real happy about a roundabout in my driveway,” said Sulphur Creek resident Lenny Reck. “But I have a greater concern about pedestrians, kids crossing sidewalks. They’re just dumping the responsibility on me. Now I have to watch for a third-grader in front of my driveway when my driveway is ice.”
The possibility of constructing a roundabout has been a hot topic at recent town council meetings, where residents — most whom live on Sulphur Creek and would be affected by the intersection with the new road — have voiced their concerns.
“A roundabout works very well in situations like this, where you want to control traffic,” Rob Pratt, traffic engineer for the project, said at last week’s town meeting. “A roundabout is a fabulous calming method. A roundabout keeps things flowing.”
Not everyone agreed.
“I hate ’em,” said Walt Proctor of Meeker, who doesn’t live on Sulphur Creek but has experienced driving through roundabouts in other places where he has lived.
After listening to a presentation at last week’s town meeting about the proposal for a roundabout, Proctor questioned what was more important, traffic flow or traffic safety.
“Does vehicular traffic have higher priority, or is it the pedestrians?” Proctor asked.
Responding to concerns about the safety of roundabouts, Pratt said, “That’s an education and an enforcement thing.”
Dick Prosence, who began working on highways in 1948 and retired from the Colorado Department of Transportation after 26 years, participated in last week’s discussion with the engineer and town board. He said, “The meeting provided a useful way for the exchange of ideas. It’s up to the council to listen and to make the final decision.”
Town board member Gerloff agreed, saying, “I thought there were some valid points (by the residents), and I thought the engineer made some valid points as well. There are a lot of good arguments out there. I’m not saying I’m dead set on putting a roundabout out there, but sometimes if something is new, we don’t like to do the change thing. I’m not sold on the roundabout, but I’m not sold on a regular intersection, either.
“We need to make this thing as safe and as user friendly as possible … if this is the cheapest option and it meets those two criteria, our obligation is to provide a safe route to the school,” Gerloff said.
Funding for the new road is another issue.
The town was awarded a Colorado Department of Labor energy impact grant in the amount of $595,000, but it had requested $925,000.
“That’s another conversation we need to have,” Day said, referring to the groups involved in the project. “We have to at least have entities commit (to additional funding), in case we need it. I don’t think we have a choice in the matter.”
The total cost of the road project is more than $1.5 million. Previously, the town had committed $100,000, the county $150,167 through the County Capital Improvement Trust Fund, and the school district is contributing $400,000 for a box culvert, which will be part of the new road.
Using the existing Ute Road, which leads to the recreation center and accesses the driveways to the fairgrounds, would not be an option, Gerloff said.
“Using that road that is there is not a safe and efficient use,” he said. “And I don’t think it’s cost-effective to rebuild, either. We’ve talked about a lot of different routes. I think this is the most viable option. I think it has to stay on the table unless we come up with a safe, cost-effective alternative.”
For the town board, the school road has become a major project, whether it likes it or not.
“I don’t know how many meetings we’ve had on this,” Gerloff said. “This one project has taken a lot of everybody’s time. The timeline was put on us. We didn’t have a choice. If we can provide the one safe route (to the school), the town has fulfilled its obligation.”
Fellow board member Regas Halandras reminded residents the road project was not exclusively a town issue.
“Help us out,” he said. “Take your concerns to the county. Take them to the school district. You’ve got the (new) school. Now we have to figure out the best way to get the kids there.”
While no decisions were made at Tuesday’s workshop, Mayor Mandi Etheridge assured residents they would be a part of the process.
“I’m not sure what’s next,” Etheridge said. “All I can say is we won’t make any decisions without you.”