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Castle Pines Metro District proposes roundabouts on Happy Canyon Road

In an effort to provide speed reduction and traffic calming along Happy Canyon Road, the Castle Pines Metropolitan District presented the Douglas County Board of Commissioners with a proposal to install two roundabouts along Happy Canyon Road. The road serves as access to the Castle Pines Village community, as well as an east-west connector from Highway 85 to Interstate 25. In addition to the roundabouts, the District’s proposal included four permanent speed limit signs and two additional landscaped medians.

By Elizabeth Wood West

Happy Canyon Road may soon have a new look. The Castle Pines Metropolitan District (CPMD) is proposing the addition of two roundabouts at gates 1&2 (Castle Pines Drive North) and gates 3&4 (Castle Pines Drive South), two partial medians, and four permanent speed limit display signs. Happy Canyon Road runs west of I-25 (at Exit 187) to Santa Fe Drive, and through the Castle Pines Village community. The proposed roadway changes are intended to reduce traffic speed, thereby reducing the number of accidents on and around this roadway.

Speeding, accidents, and public safety

At an informal meeting last month, CPMD President and Chairman Joe Gschwendtner, District Manager Paul Dannels, and other district representatives presented their proposal to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, stating that protecting the public’s safety is their number one goal. Happy Canyon Road is classified by Douglas County Public Works as a minor arterial, with a capacity of 12 to 15,000 trips per day.

According to traffic data provided by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Douglas County engineering, and the Federal Department of Highways, the average speed on the road is 39 mph, with some speeds exceeding 44 mph; the road’s posted speed limit is 35 mph.

“We believe traffic on Happy Canyon Road has reached a level of volume that puts our 5,000 residents at serious risk to harm, bodily injury and even death,” said Gschwendtner. “We want to mitigate this risk by constructing two roundabouts and several median strips on Happy Canyon Road that will slow down average transit speeds.”

According to Gschwendtner, the proposed changes will increase transit time by twenty to thirty seconds. The commissioners requested that the CPMD provide more detailed traffic accident data to substantiate the need for the proposed roadway changes.

Roundabout details

CPMD also stated they are committed to quality landscaping for the roundabouts, with a minimum of three large trees planted in each. The roundabout’s design and landscaping is not only meant to complement the surrounding neighborhood, but to provide drivers with an effective visual in their line of sight, thus encouraging them to slow down.

Commissioner Jack Hilbert spoke favorably about roundabouts in general, citing their success in reducing speed and as inexpensive alternatives to traffic lights. He cautioned the CPMD to be diligent in its roundabout design so that it will accommodate all traffic, including emergency vehicles and semi-trucks. “When roundabouts are made too small, they look like flower pots in the road,” quipped Hilbert. Douglas County Public Works will review the design and construction of the project.

Who will pay for the changes?

The CPMD will pay for all the proposed roadway changes, and according to Gschwendtner, the project costs to the CPMD will be substantial. Commissioner Jill Repella commented that she appreciated the fact that “CPMD not only brought the issue of public safety to [the commissioners’] attention, but also offered solutions that they are willing to pay for.”

Public input

Also in attendance were Brad Brooks, Les Lilly, and Steve Tomasek. They were part of a larger group of citizens and business owners who were opposed to last year’s attempt by Castle Pines Village to move towards privatizing Happy Canyon Road. The move to privatize the road was in reaction to one of the possible locations the Town of Castle Rock had proposed for the North Meadows Extension project to I-25.

In order to address any residual hard feelings or mistrust between the parties, Commissioner Steve Boand strongly encouraged the CPMD to “make this a joint public process.”

Douglas County staff was directed to coordinate with the CPMD to prepare and execute a public involvement plan. Several public meetings will be planned to allow public input about the proposed project. Gschwendtner addressed the privatization issue, saying “Happy Canyon Road privatization is off the table and in the rear view mirror. You represent our neighbors and merchants and we respect your input.”

Lilly is president of the Happy Canyon Homeowner’s Association (HOA), a community of roughly 200 homes located east of I-25 and Happy Canyon Road. Lilly commented, “I listened thoroughly to CPMD’s proposal to Douglas County for roundabouts and median strips for traffic calming devices on Happy Canyon Road. I’m not sure that I agree with Joe’s [Gschwendtner] comment, ‘Happy Canyon Road privatization is off the table and in the rear view mirror.’”

Lilly continued, “I cannot speak for our Happy Canyon HOA at this time until I have the chance to review this latest proposal with them. However, I personally cannot support this without some assurance from Douglas County that no taxpayer money will be spent on these traffic calming devices. Furthermore, the proposed public outreach component for meetings held in February should be extended until March or April,” he said.

Tomasek lives in Elk Ridge Estates, south of Sedalia. He is part of “The Coalition to Keep Happy Canyon Road Open.” The coalition is comprised of more than thirteen homeowner’s associations that are opposed to privatizing and closing Happy Canyon Road. They include Perry Pines, south of Happy Canyon Road, and Forest Park in Castle Pines North.

Tomasek said, “We applaud the Castle Pines Metro District for reaching out to non-Castle Pines Village residents regarding this issue. This is a very positive first step. I have an open mind regarding the proposal. However, we need to see more safety data to support the need. We believe the public’s perception of the proposal will be [that this is] another attempt to gain a toe-hold toward further restricting access on Happy Canyon Road. The negative PR from last year’s proposal remains.”

If approved, when would construction start?

Before approval is granted and construction can begin, CPMD must first satisfy the Commissioners’ requests by providing additional accident data, having Public Works approve the project’s design, and adequately addressing the public’s concerns. The CPMD says it remains committed to working with the public and resolving their concerns.

According to CPMD Engineer Jonathan Gray, two public hearings will be planned for this project, and they will be coordinated with surrounding Castle Pines Village neighbors, including Lilly and Tomasek. The first one will be held in Sedalia in the middle of February, and the second one will be held in the Village. Contact Gray at 303-688-8330 or contact by e-mail.

Gschwendtner is optimistic that construction will begin as early as April and be completed during the summer of 2010.



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