By Julia Caulfield
The Lawson Hill Parking and Transit Center at Society Turn officially opened on Wednesday.
A small group of Telluride, Mountain Village, San Miguel County, and Colorado Department of Transportation officials met to celebrate the event on the warm morning, with only wisps of clouds in the sky. It’s a little different from when Nina Kothe, Administrative Assistant for San Miguel County, and David Averill first discussed the idea several years ago.
“When we came out here it was a blustery November day, and I remember standing over the hood of her car with a concept drawing and we’re holding them down so they didn’t blow away,” says Averill, Executive Director for the San Miguel Authority for Regional Transportation.
Back then, he was working for the CDOT. On a work trip to the area, Kothe brought Averill to lot by the Conoco to share her idea for upgrade.
According to Kothe, the area has always been a parking lot, but the County didn’t have enough money to even pave it. She thought there could be some funding from the state.
“It just turned out there was some money available in a pool, it’s called SB 228, that had to be used for transit. So it was almost like perfect timing, and there were no what they call “shovel ready” projects on the Western Slope except for ours, so we got the money,” says Kothe.
The timing of the project is something Mike McVaugh, Director for District 5 of CDOT, also notes at the ceremony.
“This is only the second transit project to be completed in the state [with SB 228 funds], the first in Region 5, so we feel really good that everyone was ready, that timing was right, to really pull this together and take advantage of funding that was available statewide and we have this wonderful project here today,” McVaugh says.
San Miguel County got around $1.5 million of State funding to update the lot, although Kothe notes that they came in under budget.
The lot at Society Turn has been used as a parking lot for years, but now, the new transit center has around 120 paved spaces. It’s a stop for the Galloping Goose, SMART buses, and the Bustang Outrider. There are restrooms, and even several charging stations for electric vehicles, all powered by solar panels. Kothe says she hopes both locals and visitors alike will take advantage of the extra parking.
“The hope is really that people, even locals, they might opt to park here and hop on the Galloping Goose to get into town, because then they also don’t have to worry about parking in town. But mostly we envision it as a transit center for regional transportation, and maybe even a transfer station where people might get off a bus that’s come up from Montrose…and hope on a bus that will then take them up to Mountain Village,” Kothe says.
The Lawson Hill Parking and Transit Center officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on May 29th, and bagpipes to mark the occasion.