‘A highly dangerous street’
Horizon Drive deaths prompt city to draft crosswalk plan
Randall Clark wasn’t so much shocked as disheartened.
And he was definitely angry.
A little more than two years ago, his 79-year-old mother, Loretta Clark Pereda of Whittier, California, was killed while trying to cross Horizon Drive.
When Clark, also from Whittier, learned from a reporter this week that another pedestrian was killed at nearly the same location last weekend, he was livid.
“They should have put a crosswalk in as soon as my mom got killed,” Clark said by phone. “That’s a highly dangerous street. It doesn’t matter who you are, you don’t deserve to be hit by a car.”
Matthew Bandelin, 38, of Englewood, is the latest fatality on Horizon after being hit by a vehicle the night of Jan. 23 in front of Travelodge, 718 Horizon Drive.
In 2010, Richard Baird, 61, of Durango, was hit and killed by a vehicle in the roadway roughly between Travelodge and Denny’s Restaurant, 710 Horizon Drive.
The three fatalities in four years on Horizon Drive were within about 700 feet of each other.
“Come on, Colorado. What’s going on? ... I’ll tell people, if you’re planning a vacation, to stay away from Grand Junction, Colorado,” Clark said.
Horizon Drive contains Grand Junction’s most concentrated area of hotels and a number of restaurants.
Crosswalks on the five-lane, city-owned roadway are located at G Road, near the Interstate 70 interchange and at the intersection with Crossroads Boulevard.
Lengthy stretches without a crosswalk mean people often dart across the road, back and forth from restaurants to hotels. And visitors may not be aware that drivers tend to top speeds of 40 mph on the route, even though the speed limit is 35.
In response to the latest fatality, the city is crafting a proposal to create a crosswalk with flashing lights to span the roadway near Travelodge, Engineering Manager Trent Prall said.
A crosswalk would be designed to segue with long-term improvement plans for the corridor. However, save for two roundabouts slated for construction near the I-70 interchange, there is no funding identified for a temporary crosswalk or a more ambitious project that would outfit the roadway with medians and several crosswalks. A temporary crosswalk would cost $70,000 to $80,000. Designs for a safer Horizon Drive would cost several million dollars, Prall said.
“It’s unfortunate that sometimes it takes something like this,” he said about the deaths. “With two fatalities there — now with this most recent fatality — we have a serious problem.”
Prall said he would look into state grant funds designated to eliminate hazardous roads, but Colorado Department of Transportation dollars for such projects are thin — $300,000 to $400,000, to be spread across an entire region.
Three roundabouts on G Road, at 23, 24 1/2 Road and 25 roads, were built with help from federal hazard elimination dollars after fatalities occurred at those locations, Prall said.
CDOT has provided $5 million in grant funding to build two roundabouts and crosswalks near the underpass of each side of I-70 on Horizon Drive. The city and the Horizon Drive Business Improvement District each are pitching in $525,000 to help make that project happen. Construction is expected to start in September and finish by May 2016.
Members of the 227 businesses that make up the Horizon Drive BID have long requested attention from the city to make the road safer for travelers and locals, BID manager Vara Kusal said.
Kusal said the city has been helpful in getting the CDOT grant for the roundabouts, but the latest fatality makes it clear more needs to be done.
“It’s a long ways without a crosswalk,” she said. “It’s frightening, even in the day. It just seems to me we need to get the project done. We want visitors to be safe and feel safe. We’re promoting tourism. There’s going to be five people up for (Grand Junction) City Council election. We want to know what their take is.”
Kusal said she thinks the reasons pedestrians hesitate to walk along Horizon Drive is because it is unsafe. In addition to tourists, some 2,600 people work in businesses there. The corridor is often heralded as the most visible and well-traveled entrance to Grand Junction from the interstate.
According to a 2013 study by the BID, there have been a total of six accidents involving pedestrians since 2005. There were 136 vehicle crashes on Horizon Drive in the previous five years. More than half of all crashes at Interstate 70 interchanges in Grand Junction and Clifton occur at the interchange with Horizon Drive.
“It’s just so sad,” Kusal said of the fatalities. “I feel bad for the driver as well. It’s a horrible experience to know that you killed someone, that it was dark and you didn’t see them. I hope it will help bring some funding.”
Clark said his mother was traveling through the area, taking a respite en route to Mount Rushmore. She had booked a room at Motel 6, 776 Horizon Drive, and opted to walk along Horizon Drive to shake off a long day of driving. She crossed the roadway on the heels of other people who were doing it, her son said.
Clark said he visited Grand Junction and stayed in a hotel on Horizon Drive exactly one year after his mother was killed. He was horrified by the scene. During the weekend he was here, a man was killed in a single-car crash and a girl was hit by a car on Horizon Drive. He witnessed a group of young men dash across the road after eating at Applebee’s, 711 Horizon Drive.
“People will continue to die or get injured on the street,” Clark said. “What is wrong with the city of Grand Junction?”