About three weeks ago, long-time Basalt resident Bennett Bramson began noticing a rip in the fabric of the space/time continuum, as manifested by the stoplight where Two Rivers Road and Highway 82 meet on the Aspen side of town, where the Motio-statue stands.
As a person who passes through that intersection daily, Bramson, a real estate professional, became frustrated when trying to take a left onto Highway 82 because, he said, the light would remain green for the blink of an eye, an especially teeth-grating experience during the morning commute.
“Drivers were becoming increasingly frustrated by the fact that, at best, only three cars — often out of seven or eight — could make the light,” said Bramson, past chairman of the Basalt Area Chamber of Commerce. “Not only the fact that very few cars could traverse the intersection, but cars were running the light — on red — to make it through. Plus, many of the cars in the queue were then turning right, driving 50 yards west on 82 and then making a U-turn — certainly not a safe situation, especially during peak periods.”
Bramson decided to do something about the situation. After placing several comments on the Basalt Community Facebook page, he contacted the Colorado Department of Transportation, which jumped into action within a few days.
According to Mark Bunnell, a resident engineer with CDOT’s Region 3 office in Grand Junction, the issue stemmed at least partially from where side traffic on Two River Road lay in the traffic-control food chain. Basically, Highway 82 is the alpha dog.
“Last fall, CDOT re-timed the six traffic signals between El Jebel and Basalt, including the Two Rivers Road intersection,” Bunnell said. “The re-timing effort focused on coordinating these six traffic signals with each other so that drivers on Highway 82 would stop less.”
Then came Bramson’s email.
“CDOT determined that the traffic signal at Two Rivers Road was not functioning well in a coordinated plan, so last week it was switched back to ‘actuated’ mode,” Bunnell said. “This means that the signal will react quicker and give more green time to the side street when vehicles are detected on the side street. CDOT believes this change addresses the issue Mr. Bramson emailed us about.”
The process of accommodating traffic patterns is not easy.
“Traffic signals are coordinated by time of day,” Bunnell said. “Separate coordination plans are typically developed for the morning period, midday period and afternoon period. This is especially true on Highway 82, since the traffic volume is directional by time-of-day: high traffic volume up valley in the morning and then high traffic volume down valley in the afternoon. During low-volume periods — after 8 p.m. and before 6 a.m.— traffic signals will typically be switched out of coordination and operated in actuated mode.”
Ergo, the light at Two Rivers Road was coordinated for morning rush hour traffic on Highway 82 heading toward Aspen.
According to Bunnell, Highway 82 sees 20-25,000 vehicles per day in the Basalt area. Two Rivers Road sees about 300 vehicles per hour in the morning peak hour and about 125 vehicles per hour in the afternoon peak hour.
Bramson is satisfied with CDOT’s response to his complaint and now says all is well with the space/time continuum.