CONIFER, Colo. - A change of plans is coming for a deadly stretch of Highway 285 that was already expecting a change of plans.
The Colorado Department of Transportation will install cable barriers after all, to separate the directions of traffic at Shaffers Crossing.
Last month, Levi Sanford, 34, of Lakewood and Stephanie Webb, 30, of Littleton were both killed on a motorcycle when they were hit by a car coming at them in the wrong direction. Both were wearing helmets.
After the accident, CDOT told 7NEWS that cable barriers would not be possible for the area because the median is not big enough. We were told the same thing when covering the issue of near misses last year. Instead, CDOT planned to install concrete barriers, despite concerns that snow plows would not be able to remove all the snow and ice, creating a freeze-thaw danger during the winter.
Now, CDOT has changed its plan and will install cable barriers.
"We found a way to gain more distance in the median, separating those two directions of traffic," said CDOT chief engineer Joshua Laipply. "With that added distance we gained in the median, we thought we could go to a cable rail."
To get the added room in the median, the southbound off ramp at South Elk Creek Road will be moved and start farther to the south of where it exists now.
“The exit ramp that is currently there, we’re pushing back a little because we think we can gain some safety benefit from pushing that ramp back and having that start a little later," said Laipply.
Southbound drivers will have four feet of room between the left lane and new rumble strips that will alert them that they are about to enter the median. The median will be concrete and not grass, and will be angled down like a "V" to help keep cars from re-entering traffic and to help with drainage.
“Until we really gained that median space in our final design, we didn’t think cable would work," said Laipply.
CDOT will also install bright yellow arrow signs that will alert drivers to follow the curve of the road.
In November, when 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger asked CDOT why cable barriers were not going to be installed, spokeswoman Amy Ford said, "Cable barriers don't necessarily make sense in the center of roadways. The cable barriers are designed to actually reflect and deflect a car off, which means you push them back into traffic. Well, given the nature of that, we don't want to actually push the vehicles back into traffic."
“Why won’t you bounce back into traffic in this scenario?” Zelinger asked CDOT on Wednesday night.
“In this scenario, the cable rail -- the posts -- will actually break way and give, so you’ll go into the cable and the cable will hold you there. It doesn’t snap you back, but it holds you in position there," said Laipply.
CDOT previously said a vehicle hitting a cable barrier would intrude into the oncoming lane of traffic as the cables give way, also raising the possibility of striking an oncoming car.
The project will still cost the $250,000 that the concrete barriers would have cost. CDOT expects construction to begin in July.