By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Song request for KDNK at exactly 7 a.m. on Sept. 29: “Roundabout” by Yes from their 1971 album “Fragile.”
That’s the time and date the Colorado Department of Transportation plans to open the Highway 133/Main Street roundabout to through traffic. It’s a day that some locals have dreaded, some have welcomed because they are sick of construction at that intersection, and that a few don’t much care about. In any case, the biggest change to Highway 133 since a traffic signal was installed at Main Street about 30 years ago is not big enough to warrant a police presence to ensure that motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians successfully navigate the new spin cycle on opening day.
“Unless we get some calls, I don’t think anyone (a police officer) will be there,” said Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling.
The roundabout is the centerpiece of CDOT’s two-mile construction project on Highway 133 that is expected to continue until mid-November.
CDOT Project Engineer Adam Cornely told The Sopris Sun that if the weather cooperates, as of Sept. 29 traffic will flow freely through the intersection in all directions, meaning that west Main Street will be open following several weeks of closure. North-bound motorists have been able to turn east off of Highway 133 and on to Main Street for about a week.
For now, the roundabout will be a single lane but expand to two lanes when the entire project is complete.
Besides the roundabout opening next Monday, the “Oh thank heaven for 7/Eleven” crowd will be in for a change. They’ll be able to once again exit the convenience store’s parking lot onto west Main Street, but the Highway 133 entrance/exit will close for now. Colorado Avenue at Highway 133 will also be closed for construction.
Carbondale is the last town in the Roaring Fork Valley to have a roundabout bestowed upon it by CDOT. Most motorists have safely made it through roundabouts in Aspen, Basalt, El Jebel, Glenwood Springs and elsewhere in Colorado. Cornely said the same rules apply to Carbondale’s roundabout as the others and that Carbondale’s isn’t much different. According to a CDOT instruction sheet posted on the town of Carbondale’s website and also sent to residents in this month’s water bills, tips and rules include:
• Slow down.
• Read advance signing and choose correct lane before entering the roundabout.
• Stay in your lane to the exit.
• Cyclists should stay in the lane and not hug the curb.
• Pedestrians or cyclists on the sidewalk should: cross only at designated crosswalks, wait for a safe gap in traffic, cross only when traffic yields or stops.
Schilling reminds motorists to use their signals when entering or exiting the roundabout and motorists must yield to pedestrians when they are in the crosswalks.
A CDOT diagram shows that the crosswalks at the north and south ends of the roundabout are slightly longer than the ones at the east and west ends. When asked whether he thinks it will be easier for pedestrians to cross Highway 133 with the roundabout, he said he’ll have to wait to see, “ … but I think it’ll be easier.”