By Griffin Swartzell | Space Observer staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The roads outside of the east gate will soon host new traffic patterns, signage and other features designed to make driving safer, as part of a collaboration between the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron and the city of Colorado Springs.
“Staff and leadership have received numerous complaints from base personnel and community members about the safety and sharp increase in the number and severity of accidents in that area,” said Glenn Messke, 21st CES base planner.
“Peterson Fire and Emergency Services has responded to multiple vehicle accidents at the east gate,” said Ron Meyers, 21st CES assistant fire chief. He provided information about four particular incidents, the most serious of which was a five car/truck accident with eight passengers, four of whom were hospitalized with multiple injuries.
Marksheffel Road, the road that accesses the east gate, hosts high-speed through traffic that regularly comes to a stop at the gate. Vehicles regularly back up the southbound right turn lane trying to enter the installation, including commercial vehicles that require additional time at the gate due to required security.
The current design forces faster southbound traffic into the left through lane, sometimes with very little time to do so, raising potential for a crash. Due to vehicles turning left into the east gate and vehicles attempting to exit the base onto Marksheffel Road, the current design and operation needed to be evaluated to reduce the high risk of traffic collisions.
To improve safety and reduce future accidents, installation leadership and civil engineering staff are coordinating with Colorado Springs to provide assistance and address proposed improvements designed by the city’s traffic engineers. Messke indicated current options include looking at both interim efforts as well as permanent solutions to mitigate conditions as soon as possible.
Planned interim efforts include reducing the speed limit along Marksheffel Road, improving signage indicating the east gate and commercial vehicle entrance, and adding a “gore area” — a marked physical separation — between the southbound through lane and the right turn lane on Marksheffel Road. Messke said the traffic stop bar at the east gate as you exit the installation will be moved farther east toward Marksheffel Road, giving drivers better visibility to see around traffic in the southbound turn lane.
The city hopes to have these interim mitigation efforts in place as soon as possible as we approach late spring and experience increased traffic with the upcoming permanent change of station season.
As for permanent efforts, the city is in the process of designing a new signalized intersection at the east gate in cooperation with Peterson AFB leadership and staff. That project, including design and funding, will be a joint effort between Colorado Springs and the Air Force.