A new transportation manager is in the saddle | PostIndependent.com

A new transportation manager is in the saddle

Post Independent Photo/Kelley Cox

The way Sabrina Harris sees it, she’s been involved in alternative transportation all of her life.She grew up riding horses in Texas, and enjoys taking weekend sightseeing trips now with her boyfriend, who is a pilot. So she’s a natural fit as Glenwood Springs’ new transportation manager, where she leads the city’s effort to get people out of their vehicles and traveling in different ways.Harris endeavors to get people to saddle up – on bike saddles, that is. She also promotes walking, carpooling and takingthe bus as ways of reducing traffic congestion in town.Harris replaced Melissa Laeser, who went to work as a planner for the town of Basalt. Harris is beginning her job at a pivotal time. The city has experienced heavy traffic congestion this summer due to several construction projects, recently made its in-town bus service free and boosted route frequency to every 20 minutes, has been looking into ways to “calm” traffic and make roads safer for nonmotorists in town, and is facing the prospect of increasing traffic this fall when the Glenwood Meadows commercial development opens.An ad-hoc citizens committee on traffic efficiencies has proposed street standards that would do things such as narrow lanes and slow down cars, and also has drafted a traffic-calming policy for City Council to consider. The public also participated in a recent three-day workshop with traffic-calming consultants Dan Burden and Troy Russ to look at approaches that would work for Glenwood Springs.”Everyone seems excited. A lot of residents came to voice their opinion,” Harris said.”It’s just really exciting to see. I just hope we can start implementing all the things we have learned.”Many residents already are changing their traveling habits this summer, prodded not only by construction bottlenecks but high gas prices.”Since we’ve had this construction on our streets you see more bikes, more people out walking,” Harris said.Kids are traveling more often by skateboard, she said, and passenger numbers are up on the Ride Glenwood Springs in-town bus service since it eliminated fares and increased its service frequency.Harris said people are discovering they often can get places faster by getting out of their cars, and can save on gas as well. And many alternative means of travel also provide exercise.”It’s a healthy lifestyle to bike or ride,” Harris said. “You’re not polluting the air. Instead you’re getting fresh air and exercise, and you’re meeting people, like Dan Burden says.”Harris practices what she and Burden preach, often walking to work from her residence a few blocks away, and sometimes taking the bus.She doesn’t have a horse to ride these days.”I hope to get back to that,” she says wistfully.Harris began riding so young that she had to step onto a bucket to get on the back of a Shetland pony. She attended Sul Ross State University in Alpine, in west Texas, earning a degree in agri-business in 1990. The school turns out some standout rodeo riders and also has a riding arena.”I went to school with five horses and left with seven,” she said.After completing classes each day, Harris would ride until as late as 9 p.m. “I spent most of my time in the saddle,” she said.On weekends, she would wear out two horses a day, riding from sunup until sundown while working on roundups and other jobs on giant Alpine-area ranches that were measured in sections rather than acres.Harris went on to become an admissions and financial aid counselor at the school, learning grant-writing skills that she is enjoying putting back into practice now.While growing up, Harris spent a lot of time both summer and winter at a place her parents owned in the mountains in the Nathrop/Buena Vista area, up Chalk Creek near the Mount Princeton Hot Springs. She ended up going to work as an administrative assistant for Salida’s public works department and learned the intricacies of that city function.”I was the only one there eight hours a day,” she explained.Almost three years ago, Harris moved to Glenwood Springs with her daughter Makayla, now 9 and a student at Glenwood Springs Elementary School. Harris made the move after meeting her boyfriend, Jim Terry, when he was doing business with the city of Salida. A Glenwood Springs native, Terry owns GMCO Corp., a chip-sealing business.Harris found an administrative assistant job with the city of Glenwood Springs, and ended up working closely with Laeser before her departure. So Harris felt ready to move into the transportation manager job when it opened up.She spends her days on such tasks as organizing awareness days for carpooling, bus-riding and other alternative transportation; administering a Commuter Club that offers participants the chance to win weekly prizes; serving on the ad-hoc traffic efficiencies committee; and getting out the word on the city’s transportation programs through area media. She also is playing a role in the city’s attempts to begin implementing traffic-calming measures. Ultimately, the changes will have to come from City Council – and in the case of Grand Avenue, the Colorado Department of Transportation, because Grand also is part of Highway 82. And many changes will take time to make happen. But Harris said the ad-hoc committee already plans to seek council’s approval for some quick improvements, including putting a bike lane on Blake Avenue to slow traffic, making Cooper and Colorado two-way streets rather than one-way, and adding diagonal, back-in parking on some downtown streets.Some of the changes being considered by the city are bound to be controversial. But there appears to be widespread public support for the goals behind them.”We just want to make our community bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly,” Harris said. “We just want to make our community better than it is now – to keep improving what we have now.”Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com

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