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January 21, 2013
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Grand plan includes midtown access changes

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - An existing traffic signal at the main entrance into Rite Aid and the Executive Plaza businesses would eventually go away and vehicle access closed at that point, under a draft Highway 82/Grand Avenue Access Control Plan that's currently being reviewed by city officials.But the signalized pedestrian crossing at the historic "15th street" intersection would remain, at least as long as Glenwood Springs High School or some other high foot-traffic generator exists in the area, according to the recommendations included in the long-term plan.Once a city street, the 15th street easement was vacated when the City Market grocery store, drug store and other commercial properties in the area were developed several decades ago. It now functions as a signalized business access. "That intersection works fine today, but as traffic volumes increase it would be difficult to keep that driveway access open," explained Michelle Hansen, a traffic consultant with Stolfus & Associates, during a work session between City Council and city transportation commission members last Thursday.Closing the access would likely have to be coupled with a widening of the signalized intersection at 14th Street to include both left and right turn lanes, Hansen said."Again, here we are talking about taking more businesses away that contribute to the city's tax base," transportation commissioner Chris McGovern observed about the likelihood of acquiring private property to accomplish that.Councilman Mike Gamba said the recommendations in the Access Control Plan "need to be kept in perspective.""I don't want to downplay the importance of this, but it is a planning document," Gamba said. "Nothing is going to be implemented tomorrow."Another recommendation in the access plan for the midtown area is to realign and install a new traffic signal at the intersection of what's now an offset alignment at North Park Drive and Hyland Park North, near Sayre Park.For now and over the next several years, things would likely stay the same along that stretch of Grand Avenue, according to city and state transportation planners who have been working on the plan.Unless there's a big spike in traffic accidents in any one area, access changes would only be implemented in the event of redevelopment, initiated either by private property owners or the city."You do have to keep in mind that this is intended to be a plan to implement over 20 years ... or longer," city of Glenwood Springs Engineer Terri Partch emphasized during a City Council work session with transportation commission members Thursday.Even in the event of redevelopment, the project or projects would have to increase vehicle traffic onto and off of Grand Avenue by 20 percent in order to trigger the access plan recommendations, she said.

The broader Access Control Plan takes in the entire stretch of Highway 82 through Glenwood Springs, from the Interstate 70 interchange and Sixth Street on the north, along Grand and South Glen Avenue, and continuing south of the city limits to the Westbank/Garfield County Road 154 intersection. This spring, both Glenwood Springs City Council and Garfield County commissioners will consider formal adoption of the plan through an inter-governmental agreement with the Colorado Department of Transportation.In the meantime, City Council is having a series of work sessions with its transportation advisory commission to review the Access Control Plan, breaking it into three segments. A previous work session covered the downtown area from Sixth to 14th streets, including a controversial recommendation to eliminate the traffic signals at Eighth and 10th streets. Recommendations for the downtown area, especially at Eighth Street, could be triggered sooner if the Grand Avenue Bridge replacement goes forward as planned in 2015. Another City Council and transportation commission work session on Feb. 7 will cover the area from 23rd Street south to the city limits. Included among the recommendations for that area could be the eventual closure of the West 23rd Street access onto Highway 82.The city and CDOT officials are also planning an open house on Feb. 12 at the Glenwood Springs Community Center to further explain the plan and take public comments. Separate sessions are scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and from 5-7 p.m. that day.

Partch recommended at the Thursday meeting that the city adopt the recommendations related to the area between 14th and 22nd streets, including efforts to maintain easy access to Valley View Hospital.Under the plan, both left and right turns from Grand onto 19th Street would continue to be allowed, in order to preserve direct access to the emergency department entrance at Valley View. However, left turns would not be allowed from 19th Street onto southbound Grand. And 20th Street would remain a full movement, signalized intersection, also to preserve adequate hospital access.Elsewhere, access would be consolidated with future redevelopment, primarily between 14th and south Hyland Park Drive."We believe that the access consolidations shown are reasonable conditions for future redevelopment of these properties, and will benefit the city of Glenwood over time by improving safety and reducing congestion along the corridor," Partch wrote in a staff report.Other highlights of the access plan for that area, include:• Consolidating the numerous residential accesses along the south side of Grand Avenue across from Sayre Park, but only if the area is redeveloped commercially. Residential driveways would remain, but could become right-in, right-out only if a center median is ever placed on Grand.• Elimination of the pedestrian signal at Sayre Park, but only if the North Park/Hyland Park intersection is realigned and signalized to include a pedestrian crossing.• Creating single-access frontage roads, or otherwise designating of nonsignalized commercial accesses between 19th and 23rd streets as right-in, right-out only, as redevelopment takes place. CDOT's access permit manager, Dan Roussin, also emphasized that the state cannot act unilaterally to implement the access changes without working with the city and property owners."It's not our goal to change people's accesses just because we want to," he said at the Thursday meeting.McGovern said the access restrictions may not be necessary during nonpeak traffic periods on Grand Avenue."The noncommuter time is commerce time for Glenwood Springs," she said. "Businesses and customers are definitely going to be impacted by these movement restrictions."She and fellow transportation commissioner Cheryl Cain encouraged council to schedule more public input meetings before deciding on the access plan. Currently, council is tentatively scheduled to consider adoption of the plan at its March 21 meeting.jstroud@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Jan 21, 2013 01:14AM Published Jan 21, 2013 01:06AM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.