After fielding complaints over the decision by the Colorado Department of Transportation to close a crossover in a Highway 50 median west of Penrose, the Fremont County Board of Commissioners asked Region 2 CDOT officials to explain their decision to the board and citizens at Tuesday’s regular meeting. CDOT Traffic Engineer Sasan Delshad of Pueblo explained that the action being taken is based on documented accidents that have occurred over recent years at the crossover in front of the newly opened Pikes Peak Motor Company. The crossover has also served as access to a rural subdivision on the south side of the highway.
Florence Fire Chief Gene McKinnon and Penrose Fire Chief Calvin Sundermann were among those expressing frustration over closure of the crossover. Sundermann said having to travel down the highway to another crossover access could add several minutes to a critical emergency call. Sundermann also said he has never seen an injury accident at that particular crossover. Sundermann complained that his phone calls to a CDOT official in Pueblo have never been returned. Delshad apologized for the non-response adding that he was aware that on advice of the Attorney General’s office, CDOT staff was told not to respond to certain complainants.
Richard Murr, co-owner of Pikes Peak Motors, said the seven accidents in six years cited by Delshad is not extreme and do not warrant closing the crossover. Murr and several others in the audience questioned if closing the crossover in front of his business will simply force traffic to use the crossovers in front of “The Well” or on the hill a half-mile to the west.
Mary Roberts has lived in Penrose 40 years and has seen many changes. She compared Highway 50 to Highway 115 and discussed the many crossings on 115. She said the visibility at this particular crossing is actually much better than that in other areas. She said the closure is “punishment, extortion, or the abuse of power” by CDOT.
Several speakers discussed their worry that the nearby crossings were in fact more dangerous than the one that has been closed. Delshad pointed out that CDOT is not advocating the use of those, but citizens in attendance seemed to agree that they would be used regardless. Most people will not be willing to drive an extra few miles and few minutes to use Highway 115 or the airport or Highway 67.
District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden emphasized that while the Board of Commissioners was allowing CDOT an opportunity to appear and explain their decision at the board meeting, the decision on the crossover rests solely with CDOT. The Commissioner did point to even heavier crossover traffic making left turns at ‘K’ Street and ‘N’ Streets and urged CDOT to make sure they were consistent in analyzing traffic safety data in making such decisions.
The Board of Commissioners Tuesday also made annual appointments to the Fremont County Airport Advisory Committee. Jim Woolworth and Greg Tabuteau were each reappointed to their second three-year term on the committee while the Commissioners newly appointed Jack Slagle of rural Florence. Commissioner Norden said that while Slagle has been a resident of Fremont County for a short period of time, his credentials with 26 years as an Air Force pilot and working as a consultant for airport business and aviation companies will bring another level of expertise to the committee. Norden said there were an unprecedented eight people who applied to serve on the Airport Advisory Committee.
The Commissioners approved a resolution to execute a grant agreement between the county and the Colorado Department of Public Health so that the Fremont County EMS Council might accept a $15,000 grant that will provide for payment of a county-wide EMS Medical Director. That director will be Dr. Paul Numsen who already serves as medical director for a number of ambulance operations in Fremont County. County Attorney Brenda Jackson explained that the intent of appointing a countywide medical director is not to require every ambulance operation to use Dr. Numsen, but that his services are available if they choose to seek his counsel.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting the Board of Commissioners:
- Appointed Angela Jones to fill a vacant seat on the John C. Fremont Library Board of Trustees;
- Approved a transfer of a Special Review Use permit from AT & T to Diamond Tower-Texas Creek for a cellular tower that was erected recently near the Texas Creek junction;
- Approved a bid award to ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas in the amount of $61,301 for safety improvements to the two elevators in the Fremont County Administration Building.