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CDOT kicks off public meetings on future work for Highway 85 corridor

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — The Colorado Department of Transportation is conducting a study of the Highway 85 corridor to create a new vision for a 62-mile stretch of highway from Interstate 76 to the Town of Nunn.

The US 85 Planning ad Environmental Linkage Study, which kicked off in January, will identify the deficiencies of the existing highway as well as those that could present themselves in the future, according to Consulting Project Manager Chris Fasching. He said  they have completed an inventory of the highway — its physical, traffic and safety characteristics — and that future growth along the highway through the year 2035 will also be included in the study.

“At the end of this we’ll really end up with a long list of projects of improvements and enhancements to do up and down the corridor and a priority — which ones should be done first, which ones should be done second and third, etc,” he said. “And it kind of positions the corridor and all of the towns and cities and counties along the corridor to request money because they’ll know where the money should go first and why.”

Fasching said the project came about after CDOT’s Environmental Impact Study where they identified that improvements on Highway 85 were needed but that more study would be needed to determine what those improvements were. The project is being completed in cooperation with municipalities and counties along the corridor, who have all contributed some kind of funding to the $1.5-million study. 

As the study continues, CDOT is beginning to hold a number of meetings with the public — such as the one held at the Armory June 17 — for input about their concerns and ideas for the highway. CDOT Project Manager Gloria Hice-Idler said safety is the most repeated concern they hear from the public and that they want to know what can be done to make the corridor safe.

According to Hice-Idler, there are a lot of interesting conflicts along the highway – noting that some people use it to get from point A to point B and want to get there faster, that the highway serves as the main street for some municipalities, the closeness in proximity of the highway to the railroad and that truck traffic along the corridor continues to increase. She said the corridor could stand some really significant safety improvements such as shoulders, turn lanes and the widening of those turn lanes because they’re too narrow. She also said there’s also a lot of new technology out there that could be considered for the corridor.

“One of them is adapted traffic signalization, where signals talk to each other. It’s not so much they’re manually adjusted as it is throughout the day they can tell what traffic is like and they can adjust themselves,” she said, adding adapted traffic signals are currently being used in Greeley and that they could be carried down the corridor.

Hicer-Idler said Region 4 of CDOT recognizes the “absolute importance of this corridor,” especially during the floods when roads across the Front Range, including Interstate 25, were closed and Highway 85 was an alternate North/South road for people to travel. 

C-DOT’s next meeting is scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m. June 24 at the Ice House in Greeley. To learn more, please visit the project website at www.coloradodot.info/projects/us85pel or call the US 85 Public Involvement Team at 970-350-2148.