Officials from the Colorado Department of Transportation attended the May 23 Board of County Commissioners meeting to facilitate a conversation about transportation needs in Bent County.

The primary point of discussion was the need for more passing lanes along U.S. Highway 50 east of Pueblo.

Agency officials and commissioners also discussed the fact that Bent County and the Las Animas area have an aging population, which will stress the demand for public and medical transportation options.

"I'd prefer, in light of the money and things, that we would look very heavily at putting more passing lanes," said Commissioner Jean Sykes. "Between here and Pueblo, there are many, many accidents just simply because you cannot see.

"I watch people make really dumb mistakes sometimes. ... You want to get past the guy that's driving 45 mph, and so I think that would be a better use of the funds than looking at short strips of four lane."

Sykes suggested that passing lanes could at least help to relieve congested traffic periodically.

Another issue commissioners discussed was drainage along U.S. Highway 194 and Highway 50.

"The (water) issue is the river channel has built up with silt, so the whole water table has raised," said County Administrator Calvin Feik. "There's really not an easy solution to take care of that other than potentially dredging the river, which is out of CDOT's control."

Drainage from local farms leads toward the area of U.S. Highway 194 where the water issue is a problem, according to Feik. CDOT is examining ways it can reroute the water to a different location because with current infrastructure in place it must travel underneath a levy to reach the Arkansas River.

The county and CDOT didn't commit to any hard action items regarding water drainage or the problem of passing lanes at the BOCC meeting.

"They're just studying it at this point in time," Feik said of the drainage problem.

Feik estimated that the likely solution would be to divert the water that travels along County Road 11, north of U.S. Highway 50, to a higher elevated drainage area west of Highway 50 with less chance of regurgitating water onto the roadway.

Other issues examined at the BOCC meeting include an oddity in which accidents have increased along a portion of County Road 17 after the installation of a guardrail several years ago.

"Since the guardrail's been installed, there have been accidents there about three times, which doesn't make any sense," said Feik.

"It's one of those things where it's almost like, they put up a new shiny guard rail and people are attracted to it."

Feik indicated that the phenomenon isn't something CDOT can address without more information, but it was a topic of interest nonetheless.

Other discussions points included Bent County's aging population, disability rates among residents and the rising need for public and medical transportation services.

The population of Bent County is projected to decrease by about 4 percent from 2020 to 2045, according to CDOT figures. Just over a quarter of the county's current population has some form of a disability that could impact those residents' ability to drive.

Sections of highway in the Las Animas area were also identified as nearing the end of their lifespans. The approximate years-of-use remaining range from about four years to 10 years, signaling future road maintenance will be needed.

cburney@ljtdmail.com