Traffic counts conducted by the City of Delta last fall reveal that passenger cars make up 52 percent of the traffic on Confluence Drive.
Traffic was counted along the route during a one-week period. Data was collected on the north- and southbound lanes at the intersections with 5th and Palmer and at both ends of Confluence Drive. The highest use was found on southbound Confluence Drive at the intersection with 5th Street, which is roughly the midway point of the 1.6-mile-route.
Average daily traffic at that spot was 4,814 vehicles. Passenger cars numbered 2,515 (52 percent), pickups, panels and vans totaled 1,268 (or 26 percent) and trucks of all types totaled 899 (19 percent). Motorcycles and buses accounted for about 1.5 percent each.
The counter could pinpoint trucks as single units of two, three, four, five and six axles, and determine whether they had multiple trailers.
Confluence Drive opened in December 2014 and is also known as the city's alternate truck route. It was not only intended to move heavy truck traffic off the Main Street business corridor, it was seen as increasing safety along Main and for North Delta residents. When design studies were launched in 2006, train travel was increasing through town and Highway 50 traffic was frequently stopped. With emergency responders on the south side of the tracks, North Delta was essentially cut off from ambulance, fire and police response as the crossing arms blocked movement several times a day.
Local residents, particularly those on the west end of town, quickly embraced Confluence Drive as a quick and easy alternative. Truck traffic has been a little slower to move off of Main, in part because large transport services rely on GPS mapping to determine the quickest route through town. Trucks carrying hazardous materials can use either Main or Confluence Drive. Until it is designated an official Highway 50 bypass -- a conversation that's off the table for now -- the alternate truck route "just seems like an out-of-the-way detour," said Brad Davis, owner of Davis Clothing at the corner of 4th and Main.
Impact on Main Street has not been measured since CDOT conducted traffic counts there in July 2015.
Both Davis and Christi Prettyman, co-owner of Next Chapter Properties at the corner of 5th and Main, say they're still seeing a lot of trucks travelling down Main Street. They said the synchronized timing of the traffic lights on Main Street make it easy to drive straight through town without stopping.
Hartland Clubb, however, estimates truck traffic has dropped to half its previous levels. Clubb's occupies several storefronts on both the east and west sides of Main.
Clubb believes the truck route has achieved its goal, but he's also glad vehicles can get on and off at 5th. For traffic turning east off Confluence Drive at 5th, parking is readily available on both sides of Main. "It's convenient for our customers," he said.
Steve Glammeyer, director of utilities/public works for the City of Delta, said Confluence Drive is now showing up on Google Maps, so he anticipates GPS units will also catch up. Several merchants observed that local truck drivers use Confluence Drive; it's the ones who travel through Delta only occasionally that still need to be educated. GPS mapping, signage and time appear to be key elements.
The other benefit of Confluence Drive has been the ability to close Main Street for special events, including parades, Downtown Delta-Fest and Small Business Saturday.
"Every truck on Confluence is one less truck on Main, no matter how big the number," Glammeyer said. "That to me is a success."
Two fatal accidents occurred in Delta County within a two-day span last week.
Casey Gillenwater, 25, of Delta was killed the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 13, in a single-vehicle rollover on Highway 133 outside of Hotchkiss.