WINCHESTER —Kathy Colton has a new neighbor: a one-story high pile of crushed asphalt and dirt byproduct that she believes is from the construction project on Highway 99 in the vacant lot behind her home in Winchester.
“I’m not real happy with them dumping that stuff basically in my backyard,” Colton said. “It causes a lot of allergies.”
Colton is one of many residents in the area feeling the effects of the Highway 99 construction project.
The project, which began May 8, has reached a new phase in construction with the recent closure of the South Bridge, located north of Taft Drive and south of Virgia Lane, this Monday.
This closure forced drivers to take alternative routes through Interstate 5 — however, police and public works officials are very concerned about some drivers taking detours through neighboring residential streets and driving recklessly.
Such maneuvers could lead to unnecessary accidents, increased delay periods and create hazardous road conditions, according to a joint press release from the Douglas County Board of Commission, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and Douglas County Public Works Department.
Dian Humphreys, who lives in Saddle Butte Estates, said she’s seeing hundreds of cars a day using her neighborhood as a detour and driving recklessly.
“It makes it really scary to walk our dog just to get the mail. We have to pick him up — he’s a little Yorkshire Terrier — we have to pick him up and carry him for fear that if his leash gets extended to long and a car comes along really quickly, you know, they’re probably not going to have time to stop,” Humphreys said.
Local officials urged motorists to drive safely through the affected areas and use the appropriate detours after around 40 complaints came in regarding unsafe driving, said county spokeswoman Tamara Howell.
“That’s a lot, considering that’s a small area, congested area,” Howell said.
Complaints ranged from drivers using excessive speed, making U-turns and taking undesignated detours.
Humphreys said there are kids in her neighborhood that usually have basketball hoops in the street, but because of the traffic flow in the area, had to put them away. Some parents told her they are not allowing their kids to ride their bikes either.
“It’s just common courtesy is how I view it,” Humphreys said. “Going the speed limit, you might end up saving someone’s life or someone’s property or someone’s pets.”
Howell said they are increasing the safety presence in the area and are considering putting up a speed indicator up so motorists can watch their speed.
“We do have increased safety devices going into effect,” Howell said. “We have additional signage that will be put up. We’re also working in conjunction with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and looking and monitoring the amount of traffic.”
Josh Heacock, public works division manager for Douglas County, said county workers are monitoring the flow of traffic to determine where additional signs should be placed to limit confusion.
“We’re trying to determine what the bottlenecks are, observing the traffic behavior to determine where the confusion lies, kind of identifying the patterns of confusion so that we can specifically identify those,” Heacock said. “Our hope is to have that in place by week’s end or by early next week.”
Kevin Bromley, of Winchester, said he is concerned about the traffic for pedestrians and children playing outside.
“It isn’t going to last forever, it’s just a time that’s going to be inconvenient,” Bromley said.
Despite being open and accessible throughout construction, some businesses in the area say they have been negatively impacted by the construction as well.
Heather Schumaker, server at Del Ray Cafe in Winchester, said the typical lunch rush of 15 to 20 customers has been reduced to two customers.
“I think that just deters people. Once they figure out they have to go around then they’re already back on the freeway and they go somewhere else,” Schumaker said. “It’s just phase after phase it just keeps affecting us horribly.”
The construction project is expected to conclude at the end of 2019. The first of the two bridges will come down Monday and be closed until Aug 22. The North Bridge, located between Pioneer Road and Page Road, is scheduled to close Oct 30.
During the bridge closure, local and through traffic will be detoured to I-5 at Edenbower Boulevard on exit 127 and the Del Rio Road on exit 129.
Public officials said they stress the importance of motorists using the designated I-5 detour routes and not detour through local residential streets.
“There’s just so many kids and it’s summertime,” Howell said. “People are running stop signs and speeding through the residential areas that are not meant for a detour and we’re just really concerned and trying to prevent something from happening,” Howell said.