Glenwood’s ‘Blake gate’ debate rekindled by detour and development pressures
March 19, 2017
Efforts to reduce traffic through Glenwood Springs by offering more buses during the upcoming Grand Avenue bridge detour, coupled with a forthcoming plan to build 105 apartments above the 27th Street transit station, are forcing the city's hand when it comes to the question of whether to open the so-called Blake gate.
City Council recently discussed the matter in relation to a more-immediate suggestion that the gate, which blocks traffic from passing along a narrow, unimproved section of Blake Avenue between 27th and 29th streets, be opened in order to allow better access in and out of the bus station for Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses during the Aug. 14-to-late-November detour.
Long term, council members say it may make sense to open the gate permanently and rebuild that section of Blake to city street standards, especially if plans get approved to develop the Bell-Rippy property that sits due north of Wal-Mart into a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments in 11 separate buildings.
Mostly due to concerns from neighboring residents that opening the gate could make South Blake all the way from 23rd Street to the Roaring Fork Marketplace shopping center a thoroughfare for motorists trying to avoid South Glen Avenue/Colorado 82, the city has been hesitant to open the gate and make any street improvements.
Before any decisions are made, though, council is inclined to have city officials hold a neighborhood meeting to discuss the options and to find ways to protect the area neighborhood from excess traffic.
"If we open the gate, we have to look at that whole stretch of Blake and what that would mean," Councilman Todd Leahy said during a recent work session to discuss the options. "We can't do one without the other."
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Allowing temporary passage through the gate for buses during the detour is one thing, he said. Permanently opening it and essentially creating a back way to get to Wal-Mart and the other businesses in that area requires more thought, he said.
Mayor Michael Gamba agreed, adding, "We can't just unlock the gate and see what happens."
Long-term, however, "This is a connectively issue … and we need to look very carefully at what we are going to do here," Gamba said.
Imagine Glenwood, an ad-hoc group that seeks to protect residential neighborhoods around town from excess vehicle traffic, has some ideas about how to both accomplish the city's goals of moving traffic around, while protecting neighborhoods at the same time.
"We presented City Council with 180 signatures, and 90 percent of the people in that neighborhood who signed it said they don't want the city to open the gate," group spokesman Sumner Schachter said. "Our premise is to preserve all neighborhoods by not increasing traffic, and by calming and slowing things down."
That said, a short-term solution to help with the movement of buses during the detour would be for RFTA to install a radio-controlled gate where the existing gate is and open it only when buses are passing through.
"They would then have a transit loop and connectivity that does not impact residences, does not increase cut-through auto traffic and does not cost Glenwood any money," Schachter said.
"That would be a short-term option that might be part of a longer-term solution," he said.
Longer term, if the proposed residential development is approved, the city might consider removing the existing gate but placing a new gate farther north at 26th Street and another blocking through traffic to residences above Blake on Palmer Avenue, Schachter suggested.
"These gates could also be radio controlled to allow emergency vehicle access," he said, adding he supports the idea of a neighborhood meeting to hash out the options and come to some agreements.
The development plan would have a big impact on the area in terms of traffic, City Engineer Terri Partch noted during the March 2 council work session. The developer has been asked them to look in project planning at both having the gate open and having it closed, she said.
A conceptual plan for the apartment project presented by architect Bobby Ladd that same day calls for approximately 99 two-bedroom units and a few single-bedroom units in 11 two- and three-story buildings. The site plan includes 109 surface parking spaces and 97 covered spaces.
An unimproved dirt road that passes through the property and connects to Palmer Avenue would become a paved, two-lane street with curb and gutter and a detached sidewalk along one side and part of the other side of the street, Ladd explained.
Ladd indicated that project planners are evaluating the potential for having the gate opened and that section of Blake improved, and the developer may be willing to help with some of the off-site improvements that would be necessary. A formal development application is expected to be submitted to the city later this spring or summer.