County to rebuild fairgrounds intersection

GRETEL DAUGHERTY/The Daily Sentinel—Vehicles wait as others whiz past along U.S. Highway 50 at the intersection with 
27 3/4 Road in front of the old entrance to the Mesa County Fairgrounds. The county has plans to install traffic lights at the intersection and reopen the old entrance, which is at the west end of the fairgrounds.

Plans to redevelop the Mesa County Fairgrounds on Orchard Mesa are on a fast track, and, as part of a related construction project, a traffic signal at the intersection at 27 3/4 Road and U.S. Highway 50 will slow people down in the area sometime next year.

Mesa County commissioners Monday approved a contract with Grand Junction company Mountain Valley Contracting for more than $640,000 to build a new intersection that will include concrete islands and a traffic signal at the west end of the fairgrounds, which is currently closed. A retail area anchored by City Market is directly north of the fairgrounds there, and the two will eventually be connected by a crosswalk.

Because county and fairgrounds staff are working now on a comprehensive redevelopment master plan for the fairgrounds, and it is unknown what exactly lies ahead in terms of specific improvements, the traffic project approved Monday is setting the stage for what’s to come.

“We’re just prepping — getting ahead of the curve — for the Fairgrounds Master Plan,” said county Traffic Division Director Jim Nall.

He told commissioners that because of the ongoing master planning process, county staff split this project into two phases. The first phase will “put three-fourths of the signal in,” according to Nall. The north side of U.S. 50 will be fully operational after the first phase of construction, with the west entrance of the fairgrounds remaining closed until the master plan comes into focus.

The project is expected to begin in April and should take approximately 45 days to complete. Traffic impacts are expected to be minimal, with brief lane closures possible, according to the county.

“Considering the safety risk that exists at the current entrance and exit to the fairgrounds (where there is no signal), we’ll just have to move ahead quickly after this project is complete,” Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said.

It’s clear there is a nexus between this traffic construction project and the development of a plan for the fairgrounds. The county recently released a draft master plan, and major changes to the west end of the 90-acre fairgrounds property — where the new intersection and signal will be — were identified as a likely first phase of development.

All of the plans put forth thus far for the fairgrounds, though, include opening the west entrance of the fairgrounds to traffic, and the new intersection construction project is key to that.

Potential master plan aside, a thorough U.S. 50 Access Plan developed by the Colorado Department of Transportation and presented in 2008 recommended the new signal and intersection at 27 3/4 Road.

A final, specific Fairgrounds Master Plan — which could end up being a mix of the county’s proposed phases and project timelines — is expected to be considered by the current board of commissioners by the end of the year.


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