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'Recipe for disaster': CDOT plans to improve dangerous E. 160th Ave, Colorado Boulevard intersection

RTD bridge complicates plans to widen intersection
colorado 7 and colorado boulevard_dangerous intersection.png
Posted at 5:35 PM, Oct 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-16 19:51:59-04

THORNTON, Colo. — Once a rural Adams County road, E. 160th Ave. (Colorado Highway 7) is now a congested lifeline connecting Brighton to Interstate 25. Still, drivers tell Denver7 Investigates that the intersection at Colorado Boulevard is dangerously stuck in the past.

"It's just kind of a recipe for disaster," said Chris Dighero, as he pointed out the broken car parts on the side of the road from crashes in the past. "It's just kind of a recipe for disaster, I think, as far as where people are supposed to turn, where they're not supposed to turn, when they're supposed to go, when they're not supposed to go."

Last month, Dighero, who lives near E. 160th Ave., was rear-ended at the Colorado Boulevard intersection with his wife and 1-month-old baby in the car. While they were not hurt, their car was totaled.

"This intersection is known for having accidents, and I didn't have to say where I was," Dighero said. "(My parents) said, 'Where are you at?' I said, 'That intersection.'"

Since 2022, reports show at least 20 accidents at the intersection, some with injuries, and one fatality.

On Monday morning, another crash was being cleaned up, as traffic waited for the cars to be towed.

"It was a green light and I was turning," said Rosario Barrera, who was not hurt, but was shaken. "This is my first time driving here. It doesn't feel safe to me."

Dighero's father, Gregg, who also lives nearby, said it is clear the intersection has not kept pace with the increase in population and traffic in the growing area.

An RTD overpass limits the width of the highway.

"The major problem here is the width of the road, and they can't fix it without removing that bridge," Gregg Dighero said.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) declined an on-camera interview, but a spokesperson wrote that there is a plan to make E. 160th Ave. safer, starting with resurfacing almost nine miles of the highway from Brighton to I-25 East next spring. Other safety improvements include a new signal at Holly Street and a street light at Riverdale Road.

'Recipe for disaster': CDOT plans to improve dangerous E. 160th Ave, Colorado Blvd. intersection

In an email statement, a CDOT spokesperson wrote: "Areas like this - where an historically rural intersection faces new pressures from exurban development moving into the area - may require the kind of safety improvement we are planning here."

CDOT also plans to reconfigure the intersection at Colorado Boulevard, including a minor widening of the highways eastbound lanes to change from a thru left lane with a right turn lane to a left turn and thru right lane, which is how most intersections are set up.

CDOT said this was not possible before because the receiving lane on the east side of the intersection was not aligned with the right turn lane and that is why they are doing that minor widening.

As a result, CDOT estimates that traffic delays at the intersection will drop by approximately 20%.

However, in a statement, CDOT acknowledged the limitations of RTD's overpass, which is adjacent to the intersection.

"The RTD bridge does complicate CO7 in this area. Our long-term goal is to remove the bridge and make further safety improvements to the intersection, but at this moment there is not enough funding available to fully address the RTD bridge," wrote Tamara Rollison, a CDOT spokesperson.

"The problem with that is it's just too little," said Gregg Dighero, who wants RTD, CDOT and Thornton to coordinate efforts before more crashes happen. "Everyone knows it's a problem. They just need to work together to fix the problem, and that's not being done right now."

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