CDOT backs much of traffic-calming plan
Much of a city plan to calm traffic on Grand Avenue passes at least conceptual muster with the state agency that has ultimate authority over that roadway.Colorado Department of Transportation official Skip Hudson says the agency is largely supportive of the plan’s details, but they still must be subject to CDOT’s technical review process.Hudson, planning and permitting engineer for CDOT’s Region 3, said the only part of the plan CDOT doesn’t endorse at this point is narrowing lanes by two feet.Lanes on Grand Avenue are now 12 feet wide. Hudson said the agency wouldn’t have a problem narrowing them to 11 feet. But 10-foot lanes may be too narrow to accommodate truck traffic, and to be safe for parking on Grand and for pedestrians, he said.City Council recently adopted a plan recommended by a citizens committee for slowing traffic on Grand and making it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. It promotes the use of roundabouts, raised medians, fewer left-turn lanes and other measures to slow traffic but let it move more smoothly through town.However, the final decisions on such measures lie with CDOT, not the city, because Grand Avenue also is state Highway 82.Hudson said when the city and its citizens committee began working with consultant Dan Burden on traffic-calming ideas, CDOT was asked to think outside the box.”Our response was that our box was pretty big,” Hudson said. “I don’t think we need to think outside the box because we’ll consider anything you throw at us.”Hudson subscribes to a main tenet of Burden’s – that Grand Avenue traffic actually can move through town more quickly even as it travels at slower speeds.That is supposed to be accomplished by reducing stop-and-go traffic. Some of the means for doing this could include having fewer left turns onto and off of Grand, installing roundabouts at 27th and 23rd streets, and eliminating some traffic signals.”The beautiful thing that Glenwood got to experience was that happening during the GAPP project,” Hudson said.The Grand Avenue Paving Project – GAPP – concluded earlier this year. To avoid slowing traffic during that project, some downtown turn signals were temporarily disabled and some left turns were prohibited. It turned out that travel times through town decreased during the project, Hudson said.However, that improvement came at some cost. City Council member Chris McGovern voiced concern that fewer left turns and signals made it harder for customers to get to and from downtown businesses.Hudson believes downtown blocks are so short that it shouldn’t inconvenience downtown business patrons to have to go another block where a signal is available or a left turn is allowed. He also said ease of transportation access isn’t the only variable affecting businesses, and pointed to the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co., located a few blocks off Grand, as a business that succeeds even though it’s less accessible than Grand Avenue businesses.”They’re a destination that people will find a way to,” he said.Hudson said what Burden calls traffic calming actually involves mostly access management. Things such as turn restrictions, and raised medians that can’t be crossed, reduce stop-and-go traffic by better controlling access, and improve safety, he believes.Hudson said roundabouts are safer than traffic lights and “work great.” Their drawback is that they can cost perhaps $2 million each, compared to a quarter-million dollars for a light. However, they require less long-term maintenance, he said.Despite CDOT’s optimism about Glenwood’s traffic-calming concepts, Hudson said he is concerned that the city didn’t present its final plan as something that still required technical review by CDOT to make sure it all would work.”It was, ‘Here’s our plan, let’s go out and do it,'” Hudson said.He compared it to designing a dream house with certain specifications for each room.”It sounds good as a list but when you actually try to put it together as a house it may not fit,” he said.CDOT plans to look more closely at the feasibility of the traffic-calming measures during a Highway 82 corridor optimization study (see related story).Hudson said CDOT looks forward to the significant challenge of dealing with Highway 82. He said 82, like other major state highways going through downtowns, is “kind of schizophrenic.” It’s supposed to move traffic through town while maintaining access to downtown businesses and being safe for pedestrians and other nonmotorists.”We are going to find a solution that does the best to keep traffic moving and moves it safely,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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