By John Aguilar Camera Staff Writer Boulder Daily Camera
Call it the Eastern Boulder County Crawl.
Commuters moving from Erie, Broomfield, Lafayette and Louisville toward Boulder and back next week will likely notice a considerable increase in traffic and an annoying bump in backups.
The chief culprit for the upcoming travel woes is Baseline Road, which will be closed between 75th and 95th streets so that a new rail crossing can be installed in Lafayette. But a collection of other road construction projects east of Boulder -- on Arapahoe Road, South Boulder Road and 76th Street -- will combine with the Baseline closure to make life behind the wheel a real drag for people traveling east-west across the county.
"I don't remember a time when we've had so much going on in all the corridors," Boulder County Transportation Director George Gerstle said. "It's going to certainly be a difficult week for everyone, and we ask for everyone's patience."
The fun starts at 9 a.m. Monday when Baseline shuts down to through traffic (local traffic will still have access) and remains closed between 75th and 95th streets for at least four days. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Burlington Northern will replace its rickety wooden crossing with a concrete one, and on Monday and Thursday, the city will tear out 15 feet of asphalt on either side of the tracks and then repatch the road once the new crossing is in.
"Barring any unforeseen circumstances, we will be done on Friday," Lafayette Public Works Director Doug Short said. "The new tracks are already on site."
But in the event of weather delays or project complications, the city is prepared to keep motorists off Baseline until Oct. 24. Electronic signs will be posted starting Monday informing motorists of the situation.
With Baseline Road out of commission, it means the 5,000 motorists who normally traverse that section of road each day will need to find new routes east and west. Valmont and Lookout roads -- even Colo. 52 farther north -- are all cone zone-free options, especially for residents of Erie and northern Lafayette.
Gerstle urges commuters to adjust their travel times out of rush hours, share the drive with someone else or try the bus. The Jump rolls from Erie to Boulder down Arapahoe Road, while The Dash goes from Lafayette to Boulder via South Boulder Road.
"We encourage folks to leave a little earlier or later so not everyone is trying to leave at the same time," he said. "It would also be a great opportunity to test out the bus."
Kristin Flood, of Erie, said the anticipated traffic troubles in eastern Boulder County next week could prompt her to give public transit a shot in getting to her job at The Nature Conservancy's Boulder office. Whether the ride on the bus will become habit-forming, Flood doubts it. She said she has children she has to drive to athletic events most days and can't risk waiting around for a late or disabled bus.
"It would probably double my time," she said of the journey on The Jump.
Flood said she hopes to avoid much of the hassle next week by sticking with her regular route on Valmont Road, though she knows she'll be battling it out with motorists who generally use Baseline Road. Already she has noticed increased use of Valmont Road over the last few years -- a commute that took her 25 minutes one-way now can take 40 minutes.
"I'm pretty sure it's going to be 10 times worse than it is," she said of next week.
Jeannie Dulaney, who has commuted from her Louisville home to her job at Flatirons Elementary School in Boulder for four years, said she will leave the aggravation of driving to the Regional Transportation District. She usually takes The Dash to work, and starting next week, she will simply give herself more time to make it to work.
"Knowing there will be more traffic on South Boulder Road because of this, I will plan to leave earlier," she said.
The only way to approach the imminent slowdown across eastern Boulder County, she said, is with acceptance.
"These kinds of things have to happen, and four days isn't such a big deal," Dulaney said. "Everyone needs to think ahead -- and relax."