Editorial: Two disappointing decisions that worsen traffic
September 22, 2017
We have a couple of recent transportation disappointments — and a compliment.
We were concerned about the Roaring Fork School District's choice of location for the new Riverview School and said so before passage in November 2015 of the district's sweeping $122 million bond issue.
The location of the school, for students from preschool through eighth grade, seemed certain to add to vehicle traffic on Colorado 82 and to help teach children that cars are the way to get everywhere.
We were concerned about the added traffic at a precarious vehicle crossing of the Rio Grande Trail, as well. The severe angles at that crossing, we fret, will result in a serious injury or fatality to a bicyclist. Now, we have added both vehicles and children to the rural intersection with no improvements associated with the new school.
Families have been discouraged from having children bike to school, and any solution to the lack of safe pedestrian and bike routes will have to involve Garfield County, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and private landowners.
The county agreed this week to put up signs on County Road 154 advising that children and other pedestrians are in the area, but making it an official school zone "that would lower the speed limit to 20 mph during morning and afternoon times when children are present, as well as designate crosswalks, will take some time to plan and engineer," the PI's John Stroud reported this week.
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This is exasperating.
The school district bundled this questionably located school with other needed projects into an ask of $122 million in tax money and intentionally did not address this obvious and known problem.
If you asked RFSD board members and administrators if they value environmental sustainability and want to promote fitness, they would say of course they do.
But they whiffed here.
It's always easier to plan solutions, costly as they may be, when something is being built rather than to retrofit it.
Now the Riverview families, Rio Grande Trail users exposed to additional traffic and taxpayers face a wait, additional costs and a very likely imperfect solution that goes with a fundamentally bad location for a school.
As long as we are being crabby, we'll offer a raspberry to Garfield County commissioners, who appear likely to reject additional money to continue expanded service on the Hogback bus route serving western Garfield County.
Service has been dramatically expanded to help reduce traffic during the Grand Avenue bridge detour, and it has proved popular. In the first 18 days of the detour, RFTA reported that the Hogback buses transported more than 18,500 riders, about 14,000 of whom were new to the route, RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship told the commissioners.
The Garfield County Commission has all sorts of issues with RFTA. It's not hard to see the authority both as a means for upvalley interests to control land use in this county and as a subsidy for Aspen businesses, delivering their workers using public money.
But those same workers are Garfield County residents who benefit from the service, which also is a public safety aid to the extent that it takes vehicles off of Interstate 70 and Colorado 82.
Lots of people — likely including Garfield County commissioners — hope the commuting changes that some people are making during the bridge replacement project become habits that help reduce traffic in the long run.
Colorado 82 betrays its rural location, carrying as much traffic between Glenwood Springs and Aspen as Colorado 93 carries between Golden and Boulder.
Interstate 70 west of Glenwood Springs is a deceptively dangerous stretch of road, with Garfield County experiencing more deadly crashes on I-70 than any other county west of the Denver metro area, a Post Independent data analysis found last year.
Cutting traffic on both roads is good for all of us.
Keeping the expanded Hogback bus service for a year would be pricey — $722,000, while cost through the winter would be $235,000.
Garfield County has $100 million in reserves. Yes, some of it is restricted, and we don't want it spent willy-nilly — which hardly seems a risk with this commission. We think it would be worthwhile to subsidize the added service for a year, challenging RFTA to both show that the demand will be sustained and to find a grant or other source to keep it going beyond 2018.
Finally, that promised compliment:
Drivers trying to speed their passage through Glenwood Springs by taking Blake Avenue and then rejoining the official detour at Eighth or Ninth streets have made things worse for buses and other local traffic, even creating risk that emergency vehicles will be delayed leaving the downtown fire station.
The Glenwood Springs police punished them this week by making them wait at Eighth and Cooper, stalling traffic all along Blake. It was a painful lesson that we hope these drivers learn.
All three situations show our continued worship of the automobile to our detriment.
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