CREEDE— While traveling along Highway 149 leading to Creede, many travelers are noticing a difference in their journey and the reason why lies in the road itself.
Through a combined effort between the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Denver and Rio Grande Railroad owner Don Shank the tracks crossing the highway in three locations have been removed and covered by fresh pavement. The now smooth road has not only erased history, but in the process created a safer environment for travelers of all types.
According to Lisa Schwantes with CDOT, “Over recent years, CDOT has received public input requesting that something be done to improve safety of the railroad crossings on CO 149. The rail line and tracks [privately owned] have not been maintained or improved. As a result, the surface condition of the road was declining [where the tracks cross the highway] to the point that cyclists [pedal and motor] were having difficulty crossing, especially during wet weather.”
CDOT filed an application with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) last fall to pave over three crossings (between Wagon Wheel Gap and Creede) and remove one crossing in Creede.
Additionally, the Town of Creede also filed a petition with the PUC in 2008-09. The town prevailed with their adverse abandonment proceeding to the Surface Transportation Commission, forcing the abandonment of several miles of rail line through the town of Creede. CDOT has also removed the tracks crossing the highway in the town as a result of this decision.
In the spring of 2016, signs were placed along the tracks to warn cyclists of the dangers when crossing the tracks, but unfortunately did not stop people from becoming injured when crossing. The county discussed several options after an accident occurred during a bicycling tour traveled through the area in 2014, which was the incident that prompted the placement of the signs to begin with. A woman was severely injured while crossing the tracks, suffering from a broken pelvis and head injury in 2013.
Schwantes continued, explaining that Shank was aware of the entire process from beginning to end and was cooperative throughout. Now that the tracks have been removed and covered, fear of injury for bicyclists, motorcycles and other transportation vehicles can finally be put to rest. Several local cyclists are breathing a sigh of relief now that the tracks are gone, leaving the winding road smooth and safe for riding.