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Rural highway on CDOT's radar for safety improvements long before University of Wyoming students killed

Before the fatal crash, U.S. 287 and Red Mountain Rd. was one of the top five intersections in the corridor slated for improvements, according to CDOT.
U.S. 287 and Red Mountain Rd.
Posted at 9:12 PM, Feb 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-26 14:58:35-05

LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. — Colorado state officials revealed a rural highway known for wrecks was on their radar for safety improvements long before three members of the University of Wyoming swimming and diving team were killed and two others were injured.

"In this particular intersection, we knew that left turn onto Red Mountain is a concern," said Jared Fiel, communications manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation in northeast Colorado.

Over the past 20 years, there have been nine major safety improvement projects along the Highway 287 corridor, including the addition of rumble strips and cable rail. But Fiel said that wasn't enough to stop an average of 62 crashes a year, which is why CDOT launched a major study stretching 30 miles from Ted's Place to the Colorado-Wyoming border.

That year-long study was in its finishing phases just before Thursday's fatal crash. Now officials are factoring it into their report before its release.

"Having three [fatalities], now we're looking at really bumping up that to the top of the priority list," said Fiel.

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Five students — all members of the university’s swimming and diving team — were in a Toyota RAV4 that was traveling southbound when it drove off the left shoulder and rolled multiple times, killing three out of the five people in the vehicle, according to a spokesperson with the Colorado State Patrol (CSP).

While the investigation is still in its early stages, CSP said a vehicle in front of the Toyota RAV4 slowed down, possibly to turn left onto Red Mountain Road. That’s when the driver of the RAV4 swerved left, driving off the shoulder of the road and causing the vehicle to roll multiple times, according to the CSP spokesperson.

Carson Muir, 18; Charlie Clark, 19; and Luke Slabber, 21, were killed in the crash. The driver of the vehicle, a 21-year-old man, and another occupant, identified as a 20-year-old man, were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries but have since been released, CSP investigators said.


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Fiel said safety officials have already pinpointed a possible improvement.

“Creating a deceleration lane to allow for the left turn people to be over there while the rest of the traffic would be able to go on the right,” said Fiel.

CDOT is looking at adding $10 million in safety upgrades, including wildlife fencing and passing lanes, starting as early as 2025. Fiel said the only roadblock in their way is funding.

CDOT prioritizes Hwy. 287 for safety improvements after Wyoming student deaths

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