Glenwood Springs ready to consider opening South Blake gate
April 8, 2014
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Parking and traffic flow concerns surrounding the new South Glenwood Station RFTA park-and-ride at 27th Street have city officials taking a new look at a section of Blake Avenue near Walmart that has been gated for more than 30 years.
"I don't really know where this should or could go," offered City Councilman Ted Edmonds, who requested the matter be brought before council for a discussion about opening the gate and making necessary improvements to a short stretch of Blake behind the park-and-ride and extending south to Walmart and the larger Roaring Fork Marketplace shopping center.
But "Blake is in fact a public street, and this deserves some discussion," Edmonds said.
Edmonds, who is the city's representative on the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) board, said the agency is still working to address a problem with inadequate parking at the 50-space park-and-ride that serves the new Bus Rapid Transit system.
Since the South Glenwood Station opened last fall, parking has overflowed onto the gated section of Blake between 27th and 29th streets.
"They routinely have more people wanting to park there than there are spaces," Edmonds said.
One proposed solution is for RFTA to contract with Walmart to use a portion of its north parking lot to serve as overflow parking for bus riders.
If that works out, to help ease the flow of traffic between the two parking areas, Edmonds said it might make sense to remove the gate, instead of making them drive back onto Highway 82 and around to 29th Street to get to the Walmart lot.
It's not just a simple matter of unlocking the gate, however, and there is some history behind the purpose of the gate related to neighborhood concerns about making South Blake a through street.
When Walmart expanded in the early 1990s to include the northernmost section of the store and the extra parking lot, city officials agreed with residents of the area to keep the gate up on Blake but to move it to the north end of the Walmart property.
Among the concerns then, and still today, is that part of the city street easement is essentially an unimproved dirt road.
Also, neighbors to the north of 27th Street have in the past objected to making South Blake a through street, partly because the right of way is too narrow for a fully improved city street in that section.
City engineering staff came up with an estimate of just under $60,000 to improve the 190-foot section between the bus park-and-ride and Walmart to accommodate traffic through that section.
"I'm sure there are valid reasons for leaving the gate up or removing it, either one, I understand that," City Councilman Mike Gamba said.
"But this is one of those areas of town where I have felt needed to be re-evaluated," he said. "One of our goals is to improve connectivity throughout the city."
Council agreed at its April 3 meeting to further study the impacts of removing the gate and allowing traffic to pass through that section of Blake, and to hear from the public on the proposal.
That may also involve doing a traffic circulation study to see how the new park-and-ride has changed traffic patterns in the vicinity.
When it comes to paying for the proposed road work, the city may also turn to RFTA for some financial assistance.
However, "it's not just a RFTA problem," said Edmonds, who added he would bring the city's idea to the attention of RFTA officials.