GAPP, roundabouts, Midland planters, street tax – Glenwood traffic caused quite a stir in 2005
A Colorado Department of Transportation study predicts there may be unacceptable levels of traffic backups for much of the day on Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs within a decade. Motorists got a taste of the future this year thanks to delays associated with construction projects.The surprise was that the delays didn’t have to do with the Grand Avenue Paving Project, or GAPP. The temporary elimination of some traffic lights, and other adjustments during that project, which ended this year, kept traffic moving smoothly. But the problems came when the Midland Avenue alternate route underwent occasional closures as crews rebuilt the Midland/Eighth Street intersection and built roundabouts at the Interstate 70 interchange in West Glenwood.
With all the through traffic forced onto Grand, which also serves as state Highway 82, cars backed up onto I-70 during the morning rush hour and near-gridlock sometimes was experienced at night by vehicles headed back downvalley into Glenwood Springs.Eventually the Midland projects ended and the Grand Avenue drive went back to normal. But normal still can be slow during rush hour, and there continues to be concern over what the future will bring. The city and CDOT are planning to take a closer look at alternatives for addressing increasing congestion on the Highway 82 corridor in Glenwood Springs. A corridor optimization study set to begin early in 2006 will seek to evaluate the full range of alternatives for improving traffic flow in the corridor. This could include everything from instituting traffic-calming measures on Grand, to building a Highway 82 bypass along the Roaring Fork River corridor.
The study would be a predecessor to what would be a more full-blown environmental impact study for dealing with Highway 82’s future in Glenwood Springs. The studies are likely to trigger much debate over whether the river corridor holds the key to addressing the city and state’s through-traffic needs or should be preserved as is or used for some less intrusive purpose such as a city street.Even the traffic-calming ideas could generate some controversy. Many Glenwood residents have gotten behind the concept of traffic-calming – making design changes that slow vehicle speeds and increase safety for nonmotorists – after workshops presented by consultant Dan Burden in Glenwood Springs. But an early traffic-calming experiment produced mixed results. When planters were installed in the middle of Midland Avenue in lieu of placing speed humps in the residential area there, two vehicles hit them within a few weeks, and some people questioned the wisdom of the planter experiment.
As for Grand, some motorists aren’t keen about the idea of slowing traffic. But traffic-calming advocates say that by reducing left-turn lanes and other causes of stop-and-go traffic, cars can go at slower speeds and actually get through town more quickly.Meanwhile, other Glenwood streets also stand to get some needed attention after voters narrowly passed a half-cent street tax in November. The measure, which passed by a mere 11 votes, replaces an expiring quarter-cent tax that funded street projects. Failure to pass it would have severely jeopardized the city’s ability to do essential street maintenance and improvements without dipping into general funds and forcing cuts in other programs.Now that it has passed, City Council has an immediate decision to make: whether to build a direct Eighth Street extension to Midland Avenue to better connect downtown to Glenwood Meadows. The tax passage would allow for funding of the $4 million project, but some council members wonder whether it is worth it, and if it would help or hurt downtown.
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