Plan to smooth U.S. 6 traffic flow would hit Clifton school in big way

A state proposal to restrict access along U.S. Highway 6 through Clifton would alter bus traffic at Clifton Elementary School and reduce playground space.

The long-range plan by the Colorado Department of Transportation would reduce intersections and driveways along U.S. 6 from the Interstate 70 Business Loop to the bridge spanning the railroad tracks east of 33 Road.

That span includes entrances to Clifton Elementary’s parking lot and bus drop-off loop and recommends the bus loop be relocated to what is now the school’s playground area as well as replacing a pedestrian signal in front of the school with a stop-light at Fifth Street.

School board member Ron Rowley brought the plan to the board’s attention at its Oct. 21 meeting and said he was concerned about how much input the district has had because no one ever approached the board during the planning process.

“My concern more than anything is that we’ve apparently endorsed the loss of playground area,” Rowley said. “I am also wondering who would fund moving the bus route.”

Clifton Elementary already has the smallest outdoor play area for its design and size in the district, he said.

Ken Simms, transportation planning manager for Mesa County, which partnered with CDOT for the study, said he met with all major stakeholders impacted by the plan, including Dave Montoya, director of transportation for District 51.

“This is a pretty good thing for us,” Montoya said. “There’s always a big group of people in a short amount of time on campuses because of dismissal. This would relieve congestion on the road.”

Montoya said he did not present the plan to the school board because that final decision did not rest with him and because the plan is “very preliminary.”

There is no money, which would come from federal and state gas tax dollars, available currently to fund improvement to the road, Simms said, but any new development in the area will have to follow the plan.

“Right now, this plan is priority four,” Simms said. “We don’t even have enough money to finish priority one, which is I-70 B.”

Simms said he didn’t know if gas tax funds would be an eligible use of money for the bus-loop relocation should funding become available, so that project may be a partnership between the county and school district.

The school district probably would seek assistance to relocate the playground area, which could be placed in the front of the school with the freed-up space of the current bus-loop location, Montoya said.

The stretch of F Road is classified as an “urban arterial,” designed to accommodate moderate speeds and traffic volumes, according to the plan. The stretch of road between the business loop and Second Street handles 18,000 vehicles a day, according to CDOT, and it is projected to increase to 49,000 cars per day by 2035.

There are 44 access points along the road, the plan said, but under ultimate conditions the number of access points would be reduced to 12 to improve traffic flow and safety, CDOT said.

Two projects are slated for 2009 to reduce access points on the road, Simms said. One will be to install a traffic light at the First Street intersection and close the entrance to the Peach Tree shopping center near Starvin’ Arvin’s restaurant. The other will be to improve the Grand Valley Transit park-and-ride at the northeast corner of F Road and the Interstate 70 Business Loop and moving the F Road entrance.

Business owners along the road voiced concerns about reducing access to their businesses along the road, Simms said.

“It works now, so they’re having trouble visualizing how this plan would help them,” Simms said. “But U.S. 6 is projected to see such an increase in traffic, cars won’t be able to enter and exit businesses safely under current conditions.”


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