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  • Dylan Anderson

Brown Ranch traffic study shows need for two more stoplights, additional lanes on U.S. 40

Some of these improvements could be needed by the end of the decade while others are likely more than 20 years out.

A rendering of the Brown Ranch a full buildout. (Yampa Valley Housing Authority/Courtesy)

U.S. Highway 40 will need to be widened — two lanes in each direction from Dream Island Plaza to Routt County Road 42 — and two more stoplights will need to be installed potentially as soon as 2030, according to a traffic study conducted to inform the development of the Brown Ranch.


While the need for these improvements would be accelerated because of the Brown Ranch, the upgrades would be needed even without the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s 2,200 unit-development, said Steamboat Springs Public Works Director Jon Snyder.


“The widening needs to happen regardless,” Snyder said. “Some of the improvements, especially as you get closer to downtown need to happen by 2030, maybe 2035. Then as you get further west it stretches to maybe 2045 to 2050.”


The traffic study is over 1,000 pages and was received less than a week ago, so staff have not had time to delve into every aspect of the document. Still, the Brown Ranch Annexation Committee made a key decision on Wednesday, agreeing to share the costs for these upgrades between the city and the housing authority depending on the traffic added.


This cost-sharing method is referred to as incremental impact, with costs being paid by the developer based on the percentage of traffic going through the intersection will be because of the added development. This is the method that was used in the previous annexation agreement for this property referred to as West Steamboat Neighborhoods.


The four intersections on U.S. 40 that will need improvements are at the junctions with Elk River Road, Downhill Drive, County Road 42 and the entrance to the Brown Ranch, which is being called Slate Creek Drive, Snyder said.

The Elk River Road intersection will need another westbound lane, as will the Downhill Drive intersection. The latter of those will also need a stoplight, but efforts to build that are already in the works, with construction planned for the summers of 2024 and 2025. Current planning does not include two lanes westbound, but Snyder said it is being designed to easily accommodate another lane west in the future.


The Slate Creek Drive and U.S. 40 intersection will need a stoplight and have two lanes in each direction, Snyder said. This intersection will be directly across the entrance to Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park.


The final intersection upgrade on U.S. 40 is at County Road 42, which recently had a stoplight installed to accommodate the addition of Sleeping Giant School. Snyder said that stoplight buys a significant amount of time before improvements are needed, but there too would likely need two lanes in each direction.


The study looked at U.S. 40 from 13th Street in Downtown Steamboat westward to County Road 42. Snyder said they didn’t review anything east of that because the highway is already four lanes through downtown and there wouldn’t be a way to add any more.


There are three other, non-U.S. 40 intersections that will need improvements as well. The first is Elk River Road and Downhill Drive, though Snyder said he didn’t believe there would need to be a stoplight. Adding turn lanes on the roadway would likely be enough, he said.

The second is at Gloria Gossard Parkway and Downhill Drive, which Snyder anticipated would need to become a four-way stop. The final intersection would be County Road 42 and Gossard Parkway on the west side of the Brown Ranch, which is not constructed at all currently. Housing Authority Executive Director Jason Peasley said he anticipates the housing authority paying for these intersections, which is how it typically would work for development in the city.


In addition to the intersection on County Road 42, Snyder said it may need to be put under the city’s jurisdiction with the addition of the Brown Ranch. While the road wouldn’t need to be widened, it would need improvements like sidewalks and bike lanes.


The Brown Ranch may require an entirely new road as well, Snyder said. Both the Steamboat 700 and West Steamboat Neighborhoods annexation attempts included a road connection between County Road 42 and County Road 129. This additional road is also identified in the city’s transportation master plan, though Snyder said it wouldn’t be required to be built with annexation. Instead, Snyder said they would want some right-of-way dedicated to allow for a future road.


While the committee quickly decided on sharing costs incrementally, some of these projects are likely to exceed what entities are able to afford, Snyder said.


“We as a municipality do not anticipate grants for widening Highway 40,” Snyder said. “Now the housing authority in contrast, with your relationship with the governor’s office and thing they can contribute, you might have a bit more of an ability.”


While grants are always possible and the city has a capital improvements budget for such projects that can help for a modest amount, Snyder said many of the U.S. 40 improvements will probably need significant help from CDOT.

“We’re talking about numbers so large that they probably don’t happen without a substantial level of involvement from CDOT,” Snyder said.


The other option would be revenues from the short-term rental tax voters passed last year, which has raised more than $2.6 in the first two months of the year. Use of the STR tax has only briefly come up during annexation meetings but hasn’t really been discussed in earnest to this point.


Snyder said the traffic study will be peer-reviewed to ensure its accuracy and more traffic conversation is expected in future annexation meetings in May and June.

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