Carbondale Town and Garfield County officials are gearing up for the Red Hill Road Realignment Project that is expected to create a safer and more efficient traveling experience for all community members.
While no official date has been released, officials believe that with consistent weather and final approval from CDOT, the project can begin as early as mid-April.
Located directly off of the intersection of Highways 82 and 133, County Road 107 is a hot spot for Red Hill trail users and RFTA commuters; the road also plays host to multiple homes located beyond the trailhead.
Due to increased use, CR 107 has become a major source of concern for many officials.
“We have had some safety concerns with CR 107 for quite some time,” Town of Carbondale Public Works Director Kevin Schorzman said. “It is a winding and steep road with a lot of cars and people trying to get to the trailhead up the road. The property swap [from Aspen Valley Land Trust] was a great opportunity to address long standing concerns.”
In 2018, the Town of Carbondale acquired land from the AVLT, and in an attempt to reduce recreation traffic on CR107, the once privately owned land has been converted into a new public trail system featuring lower trails and a new trailhead located 400 meters south of the original BLM trailhead.
Davis Farrar, President of the Red Hill Council has noticed a reduction in foot traffic on CR-107, but there are still recreationists who are congregating on the road.
“The Three Gulch trailhead is still open, and the majority of folks are using the new trailhead,” Farrar said. “But some will go up the new trailhead and continue to use the old one when they leave.”
Farrar explains that closing the BLM trailhead will eliminate recreation traffic on CR-107. Currently there is no set date for closing the BLM trailhead, but talks are on the table. In the meantime, he believes the road realignment is a good management plan.
According to Schorzman, CR-107 will receive a facelift that removes the dangerous hairpin turn at the intersection of HWY 82 and CR-107.
By straightening the road, Schorzman said it will also allow for three new lanes of traffic at the intersection; one for entering CR-107 and the other two for crossing over HWY 82 towards HWY 133.
According to Schorzman, there will be more room for cars and the flow will be much smoother.
The current parking lot will also be removed and replaced with two lots on the west side of CR-107 that will double the amount of parking; a lower lot will be for commuters and an upper lot will be for trail users.
The old lot will become a restoration area and be revegetated with native plants such as sagebrush and rabbitbrush, according to Schorzman. Earth that is removed for creation of the new lots will be placed into the restoration area to help recreate the original environment.
With the new plan, recreationists will also have easier access to the trailhead thanks to encouragement and input from the Red Hill Council. To safely access the trailhead, there will be a pedestrian path that crosses over HWY 82 and leads directly to the new trailhead; thus completely eliminating the need for recreationists to use CR 107.
Once the project begins, locals can expect it to take anywhere from four to six weeks for completion. Schorzman said that there are two major pieces of information that will dictate the start date: the first is having consistent weather and the second is receiving final approval from CDOT, which is expected to happen around April 15.
Schorzman also noted that once the county and town receive the green light, the county plans to work five to six days a week for 12 hours a day.
In that time, the Red Hill recreation area will be completely closed to all recreationists. While there has been some disagreement in the community about closure, Schorzman notes that there will only be one lane of traffic during construction and therefore not enough room for pedestrians and nonresident traffic.
Throughout construction, locals can also expect up to 30 minute holds at a time to allow for mechanical equipment movement and road setting.
“This is a good project for the long term,” Schorzman said. “Safety is our biggest concern. We are not closing [Red Hill] to make it easier for trucks to get in and out. There will be all types of equipment during the day and we do not want to risk the safety of others.”
Community members will receive at least one week’s notice prior to the start of the Red Hill Road Realignment Project. Information will be updated on the town website and the Red Hill parking lot message board.
In light of COVID-19, there will be no upcoming community meetings regarding the project. Instead, residents can contact Kevin Schorzman directly via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (510-1217) with any questions or concerns.