Drivers: Stop, look hard and take a left
No-left turn is dropped
After a long battle, residents of Lebanon Estates subdivision were granted approval to remove a controversial no-left turn sign from the intersection of North Loop Road and Road 25.
Before the change to the subdivision plan could be made, all landowners had to sign off on the agreement, which was successfully completed in late August.
The debate on whether a no-left turn sign was warranted has been simmering for years since the subdivision was approved in 2006. Campaigns for and against the sign has been played out in letters to the editor and in public meetings.
Aggravations over ‘sign-gate’ boiled over this spring when the no left-turn sign and a concrete barrier were covertly removed by subdivision residents one evening. The annoyed residents justified the illegal act because the signs were on private property and were an inconvenience.
A rare on-site public hearing – complete with a bull-horn, recording equipment, and refreshments – was held by the Montezuma County commission in July to gather comments and observe traffic firsthand at the intersection.
Supporters of the sign responded by reporting the stolen signs to newspapers and the county. They argue it is needed for traffic safety because of limited sight distance for vehicles turning onto Road 25.
They also pointed out the sign is part of the approval of the 19-home subdivision, which currently has five homes.
The commissioners agreed that due process for removing the sign had not been done, and the sign was begrudgingly re-installed by residents.
But, it quickly came down for good following Monday’s final ruling.
‘A mere instant’
After testimony from both sides, commissioners felt the sign was unnecessary, and the board voted to drop the requirement for the no-left sign.
“If everybody abides by the current laws, then I don’t think it is a problem,” said commissioner Keenan Ertel. “There is no history of accidents there.”
Jackie Randall, a neighbor of the subdivision, said the county could be liable “after someone is killed” because of the sign’s removal.
Nathan Barton, a traffic engineer hired by the county to review the intersection in 2006, said that the problem with the north entrance is inadequate sight distance.
“It is a significant enough risk to require that it be a restrictive turn intersection,” he said, adding that failure to maintain signage has led to liability suits in other counties if it causes an accident.
The trouble is a curving dip on Road 25, just north of the intersection.
Smaller southbound vehicles and motorcycles entering the dip can slip from view of a vehicle looking to turn left from the subdivision.
“It is enough for a vehicle not to be seen,” Barton said. “Then there is not enough response time once the vehicle turning left has already committed.”
Ertel disagreed, asserting that vehicles are in the dip “a mere instant.”
“If you make a complete stop coming out of the subdivision, look both directions, you will see oncoming traffic coming out of the dip,” he said.
“There could be consequences for overruling a qualified engineer on an established safety standard,” said Greg Kemp.
The Colorado Department of Transportation did not require the no-left restriction, according to the planning department.
“I make a left there all the time,” said Lebanon Estates resident Richard Eaton. “If you wait five seconds, you can see everything.”
Scofflaws have been ignoring the sign for years, neighbors complain. They point out that residents wanting to drive south on Road 25 can use a separate exit 45 seconds away that has no traffic restrictions. Others comply, turn right, and then make a U-turn.
“I feel making a U-Turn is more dangerous,” said commissioner Larry Don Suckla.
The tempest brought to light the issue of enforcement of traffic laws within private subdivisions.
Sheriff Dennis Spruell said the department has limited enforcement powers for traffic infractions within private subdivisions.
In 2007, the Colorado State Patrol expressed concern about the intersection, writing in a letter to the county that it is confusing for drivers and “may cause a traffic hazard.”