Consultant says bypass the bypass
Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series about ideas raised by two consultants who visited Glenwood Springs on Wednesday to examine downtown traffic issues. The railroad corridor along the Roaring Fork River in Glenwood Springs may be more appropriate for a residential street than for a Highway 82 bypass, a consultant says.Troy Russ, director of transportation and urban design for the Glatting Jackson community design firm, suggested the idea during a visit to town Wednesday. Russ said he’s not sure the city needs a bypass. But it does need a better network of well-connected streets that can take some of the pressure off Grand Avenue, he said. A street along the river might be a good addition to this network, Russ said.”Think of it as building a natural extension of your city instead of a bypass,” he said.Russ and fellow Glatting Jackson consultant Dan Burden led two downtown walking tours Wednesday aimed at finding ways to make Grand Avenue and neighboring streets more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. Their visit was organized by the city’s Traffic Efficiencies and Bike and Pedestrian Utilization ad hoc committee, and funded by a grant obtained by the New Century Transportation Foundation.Russ and Burden said homes on a new street along the corridor would be highly desirable, and also make the river trail safer because more people would be in the vicinity. Russ said a developer could also pay for a street in exchange for being allowed to build housing there. In addition, the new street would boost housing density near downtown, putting more residents within walking and biking distance of more destinations so they contribute less to traffic problems.The concept drew some initial interest among participants at Wednesday’s meeting.”If that can be done, that just sounds like a really great idea,” said Mark Henthorn, a member of the city’s Transportation Commission.But it also would face some major challenges. Some city residents worry about the possible impacts of developing the pristine river corridor.”We really need to work to preserve that,” said city resident Shelley Kaup.To complicate matters, the corridor doesn’t belong to the city. It is owned by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, of which the city is a member.City officials have long eyed the corridor as a potential location for a Highway 82 bypass, and the city has acquired additional property in the area with that possibility in mind.City Council member Chris McGovern said she is hesitant to support the idea of adding another street as a way to relieve congestion on Grand Avenue, and pointed to the situation on Midland Avenue. The city created an alternate route through town via Midland Avenue while trying to keep it residential in nature. Some who live along the road say it is unsafe because of traffic volume and speeding.Council member Larry Beckwith, himself a Midland resident, said he supports trying ideas suggested by Russ and Burden for making downtown safer for nonmotorists while improving traffic flow. But he suggests that these are only temporary solutions.”It seems like every time we do something we put off the inevitable,” he said.A recent study of Grand Avenue traffic projected that, unless something is done, congestion would become unacceptable much of the day within 10 to 17 years.
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