As the city of Cortez works to improve traffic safety on Main Street, law enforcement data show the northeast quarter of Cortez is the most dangerous area to drive.
The Cortez Police Department doesn’t track long-term crash data by intersections, Patrol Lt. Andy Brock said, but it does separate the city into four geocodes, divided by Market and Main Streets.
During the past four years, police have responded to the most traffic accidents in Geocode 2, the part of town north of Main Street and east of Market, and data from Colorado State Patrol Troop 5 also show a higher number of crashes on the east side of town.
The city’s upcoming median project, which is designed to calm traffic on Main Street, will mostly affect the western edge of the most dangerous driving zones.
Since 2014, Brock said police have responded to 251 traffic accidents in Geocode 2. One, a single-vehicle crash near the Colorado Welcome Center that occurred June 20, 2017, was fatal.
The area with the second-highest number of crashes was Geocode 4, the part of town east of Market and south of Main Street, where 161 crashes have been recorded in four years.
Geocode 3, the southwest part of town, had 109 traffic accidents in four years, and Geocode 1, the northwest part of Cortez, had the lowest number, with only 77 crashes recorded during that time.
Brock said he believes the eastern part of Cortez has more accidents because it has a higher volume of traffic. Geocode 2, in particular, is home to many of the most popular gathering places in town, including Parque de Vida, the Cortez Public Library, the Osprey Packs headquarters and City Market. It also has multiple liquor stores, the Cortez Police Department and Montezuma County Combined Courts.
“A lot of things go on there,” Brock said. “On the Fourth of July, everybody’s in Geocode 2.”
Geocode 4 has Walmart and the Montezuma-Cortez High School, which also get a lot of traffic. The calmest traffic area in town, Geocode 1, is mostly residential.
According to Colorado State Patrol data, troopers have responded to 51 traffic accidents on Main Street, the only Cortez road in their jurisdiction, since 2014. The area with the most recorded crashes was mile marker 40.9, near the bridge over Rocky Ford Ditch. The data show seven crashes occurred there in the past four years, including one that resulted in injury. Mile marker 41.5, near Vista Verde Village, saw six traffic accidents, also including one win an injury crash.
The majority of crashes handled by State Patrol during those four years happened near the eastern edge of Cortez, between mile markers 40 and 43, with only four accidents recorded west of the Dolores Road intersection. But the only fatal accident occurred at mile marker 37.6, near the West Fifth Street intersection on the south side of town.
The city of Cortez’s “downtown safety and streetscape improvements” project, set to begin construction in June, will install raised medians in the Central Business District, from Ash to Elm Street, and a pedestrian refuge and signalized crossing at the Roger Smith Avenue and North Edith Street intersection.
Like its name suggests, the Central Business District is located in the middle of the four geocodes, half on the east and half on the west side of Cortez. Few severe traffic accidents have been reported there in recent years. But Brock said the Roger Smith Avenue intersection, where the pedestrian crossing will be built, has some of the heaviest traffic in town.