Boards work to unravel traffic snares

Meeting at Town Hall last Thursday, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) sat down with the Pagosa Springs Town Council for a “discussion of items of mutual interest.”

The board tackled three items on a five-item agenda. At the top of the agenda, and taking the lion’s share of time for the session, a discussion of possible solutions for the North Pagosa Boulevard intersection was presented to both boards.

Notorious to most area residents, the intersection, just north of U.S. 160, has long been a source of headaches, impatience and dented fenders for locals and visitors alike. Proposed solutions, presented to both boards by Mel Dahlberg of Bohannan Huston, sought to mitigate traffic flow in and out of the two gas stations, at the east and west corners adjacent to U.S. 160, along with traffic at Navajo Trail Drive and Country Center Drive.

Using data from two studies that included crash and safety data, traffic operations LOS (Level of Service), right of way, and pedestrian/bike considerations, Dahlberg presented the boards with news that did not bode well for the immediate future of the intersection — along with ideas on what might be done to improve the situation.

Of the suggestions offered by Dahlberg, the options graded highest on LOS (the ability to keep traffic flowing freely during peak hours) included diverting west end traffic on Country Center Drive to Village Drive and realigning Navajo Trail Drive to meet at Village Drive where both would terminate at a roundabout. Variations on the high-graded options included expanding the stretch of North Pagosa Boulevard from U.S. 160 to Bastille Drive to four lanes with the addition of a median, making access to the two gas stations limited to “right in, right out.”

“Basically, you want to limit the number of left turns out of the gas stations,” Dahlberg said, adding, that “a roundabout is self-metering, in a sense. It eliminates the need for a traffic signal which, naturally, interrupts the flow of traffic.”

Dahlberg estimated that costs for the road improvement project would run between $1.3 to $1.4 million.

Agreeing to pursue the improvements as a joint town/county project, the boards appointed Archuleta County Administrator Greg Schulte and Pagosa Springs Town Manager David Mitchem to establish a working group that would work with local businesses affected by the road work. However, the boards made no decision on what option to pursue.

In other business, the boards considered a renewed intergovernmental agreement (IGA) for the sharing of sales tax revenues. The previous IGA expires this year (due to a seven-year limit on the IGA). In November, voters not only passed a reauthorization of the IGA, which splits a four-percent sales tax between the county and the town, but also voted to make the IGA permanent.

“I’ve looked at the IGA that will expire and the language in the new IGA is almost identical to it,” said Archuleta County Attorney Todd Starr.

Mitchem reported that Town Attorney Bob Cole was looking at the new IGA, as well. With little discussion, both boards agreed to consider the new IGA on their next meeting agendas.

Finally, both boards heard details of a Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant supporting the inclusion of town data into the county’s existing Geographical Information System (GIS), a database of information for individual properties and geographical features throughout the county.

Although the county currently collects town data, property information for the town is currently handled by the county — a process that can often be cumbersome and less than timely. With the DOLA grant added to a $2,000 match from the town and $3,000 match from the county, town staff would have the capacity to input data to instantaneously make changes to the GIS.

Following the joint meeting, at the May mid-month meeting, town council approved the allocation of its match for inclusion into the system.

The next joint council/BoCC meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 16 at the Archuleta county courthouse.