During the last decade, the Oxford intersection on Colorado Highway 172 has been the site of countless accidents. The wrecks have involved school buses and resulted in serious injuries and even death.
And now, La Plata County officials say, the dangerous intersection between Durango and Ignacio will get a makeover they hope will save lives.
This is much needed and long overdue for the safety of our commuters, said Commissioner Kellie Hotter.
The project will cost an estimated $2.4 million, with little or no cash outlay by La Plata County, said Karla Distel, the countys finance director.
The Federal Hazard Elimination Program, created to address hazardous intersections, kicked in $1.8 million for the project.
Its nearly $1.5 million more than county officials expected when they applied for funding, Distel said, but it still wasnt enough to get the project started.
An early-morning traffic fatality involving a 66-year-old Farmington man in August helped county officials convince a state grant committee to close the funding gap, Distel said.
It just coincidentally happened to be considered on August 2, Distel said of the countys $600,000 Colorado Energy Impact grant application.
That morning, Victor Nevarez was struck by a pickup while preparing to turn onto County Road 513. Nevarez was pronounced dead at the accident scene. Highway 172 was closed and traffic was rerouted for hours.
News reports of the wreck added weight to county officials case for funding to the state grant committee, and they awarded the grant, Distel said.
The intersections current layout is dangerous for motorists, county and state officials said.
In fact, a consultant analyzed 32 intersections thought to be dangerous in 15 counties for Colorado Department of Transportation Region 5. The Oxford intersection was ranked the ninth most dangerous, said Mike McVaugh, CDOT Region 5 traffic and safety engineer.
A dogleg of County Road 311 keeps the intersection off-kilter, something area traffic engineers said is generally dangerous.
And when motorists are turning onto or off the county roads that intersect with Highway 172 without turn lanes, it ends up being quite a dangerous maneuver on a 65 mph section of highway, said Rick Routh, a traffic engineer for Colorado Department of Transportation Region 5 .
The proposed changes to the intersection would add right and left turn lanes to every direction of traffic. Officials also plan to realign County Road 311 to line up with County Road 513 so the intersection will be the typical T pattern motorists are accustomed to, state and county officials said.
Theres no question thats safer, Routh said. By having two accesses line up with each other, all the movements become more predictable for drivers.
Officials arent certain theyll be able to start the construction project next year, Distel said.
The county still must acquire nine small parcels from seven area landowners, said Jim Davis, the countys public works director.
But lining up the funding needed to get started on the work was very good news for county officials and local motorists who traverse those roads, Distel said.