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Rio Road woes

There are movers and shakers in this community. Verleen Hanes is one of them. Her mission: to convince county officials that Rio Road is not safe.Rio Road, which is heavily trafficked, needs drainage improvements and needs to be paved, Hanes said. She has called county officials and sent them letters about the conditions of the road. Frustrated by a lack of response, she called TV stations and newspapers, too, but county officials say that upgrading Rio Road is not a “high priority.”When Larry and Verleen Hanes purchased their property on Rio Road30 years ago, most streets in Falcon were gravel. According to the Falcon/Peyton Plan, less than 1,000 people lived in Falcon at the time, and the roads were primarily used by local residents.”Today, Rio Road is no longer a residential street – it’s a convenient shortcut between Highway 24 and Falcon Highway,” Hanes said. “Commuters not used to driving on gravel roads go too fast, and there have been five accidents at the corner of Falcon Highway and Rio Road so far this year. Neighbors have lost fences and mail boxes.”In addition to the increased traffic, roads directly east of the Safeway Shopping Center, where Hanes’ street is located, are beset with drainage problems. In 1999, heavy spring precipitation overwhelmed small culverts, sending a stream of rushing water down the shoulder of Rio Road. “Since then, the road erodes away more with each storm,” Hanes said.Her major concern is for the safety of school children because the roadbed is unstable. “If one of the five school buses that use this road every day pulls off onto the shoulder and the road collapses under the weight, the bus could fall into a three-foot deep ditch,” Hanes said. She said she wants the road fixed before that happens.At least one county official doesn’t think Hanes is exaggerating about the Rio Road conditions.John McCarty, director of the El Paso County Transportation Department, said Rio Road is a known route for commuters driving to Shriver Air Force Base. “The road has the second highest traffic volume of any gravel road in the county,” McCarty said.It’s probable that the problems are caused by growth.Because roofs and parking lots are impervious surfaces, where water either evaporates or moves to a spot where it soaks in, increasing the flow of water downstream; new growth in Falcon could be impacting the road conditions. Gravel deposited by flowing water clogs culverts and changes the drainage channel, causing storm water to under cut the road bed.McCarty agreed that drainage problems caused by growth may be eroding away the street.Hanes has documented attempts by the county to improve the road. According to those documents, in April, the transportation department cut a large ditch along the road to improve drainage. The following day, they placed barricades at spots where the road is being undercut by the flow of water. A couple of days later, they dug more gravel out of the culvert near Falcon Highway and Rio Road, but Hanes said the shoulder continues to crumble.McCarty said the county has no priority system regarding the paving of gravel roads. He also said the county budget doesn’t provide any money to pave the gravel roads. Homeowners living on gravel roads can pay to have the road paved. The county would do the work and provide the asphalt at a price significantly lower than a contractor hired by the residents, McCarty said.”The bottom line is unless the (El Paso) Board of County Commissioners gives the transportation department emergency funds for capacity improvements, there is no money available to fix Rio Road,” he said. “Given the $7.5 million deficit in the county’s budget, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.”McCarty held out some hope for Rio Road but said it would take a concerted effort by residents in the community. He said the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority may have $4 million available for capital improvement by mid-July. “But project funding requests will be flowing in from all parts of the county looking to tap this revenue,” he said. “Citizens should go to the BOCC with signed petitions, letters, and pictures, if they want their project to be considered.””I will try that,” Hanes said. “Something has to be done before there is a major accident on this street.”To contact county officials, visit the county Web site at Also, click on the board of commissioners’ agenda to determine when the board will be allocating the RTA revenues.

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