City may open gate on Blake during Grand bridge closure
Glenwood Springs transportation advisers want City Council to revisit the idea of opening the so-called “Blake gate” at the south end of Blake Avenue near the Bus Rapid Transit station in time to help with traffic congestion during the upcoming Grand Avenue bridge closure.
The city’s Transportation Commission on Tuesday sent a recommendation to council, requesting the city also schedule meetings to discuss ways to mitigate neighborhood concerns around the proposal to remove the gate permanently.
According to City Engineer Terri Partch, the latest request came from the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.
The operators of the valley’s BRT system and the in-city Ride Glenwood bus service view the opening up of Blake Avenue between 27th and 29th streets, which for several decades has been gated, as a way help RFTA in its role to try to get more people to use the bus during the planned 95-day bridge detour that’s scheduled to begin Aug. 14.
Colorado Department of Transportation needs to close the existing Colorado 82/Grand Avenue bridge so that the final segment of the new bridge can be built. During that time, traffic will be diverted along Midland Avenue between Interstate 70 Exit 114 in West Glenwood and Eighth Street coming back into downtown.
“There is some concern with the upcoming detour and the need for additional buses to maybe send some of the southbound buses to the Blake signal,” Partch said, referring to the main entrance to the Roaring Fork Marketplace shopping center at Blake and South Glen Avenue.
Currently, the main access in and out of the BRT station and park-and-ride lot is at the signalized 27th Street intersection.
Allowing buses to make a circular route into and out of the facility using both access points may make for more efficient use of the station when more buses will be on the road, Partch explained.
Long-term, the city in recent years has been weighing the prospect of removing the gate permanently and upgrading that section of Blake to help ease traffic congestion in the area, especially since the BRT station was built.
The Transportation Commission wants City Council to explore that possibility as well, especially with a proposal being considered for a new apartment building on the Bell-Rippy property located above the park-and-ride. However, it recommends the city hold neighborhood meetings to discuss the impacts and ways to mitigate concerns.
Several residents living along Blake have objected to the proposed gate opening, saying it would increase through traffic along the narrow, largely unimproved section of Blake between 23rd and 29th streets.
“I would like to repeat my strong opposition to opening the gate and allowing through traffic to 23rd Street,” Blake Avenue resident Sumner Schachter wrote in a letter to the Transportation Commission. He is part of the Imagine Glenwood group that has opposed the gate opening and has been lobbying for several traffic-calming measure along Blake and in other residential neighborhoods.
If the gate is removed, through access should not be allowed north into the residential area between 23rd and 26th, he said. One suggestion has been to re-erect the gate at 26th Street, or possibly make that stretch one-way.
“The plan for the bridge closure includes routing traffic to and on Highway 82/Grand Avenue as the most efficient way through town,” he said. “Protecting adjacent neighborhoods should be a high priority.”
The city at one point had budgeted $100,000 for street improvements, including wider driving lanes, curb and gutter, if the gate were to be opened. That money has since been taken out of the budget, Partch said.
In addition to working with neighbors on mitigation measures that would allow the plan to proceed, the city may also need to find outside parties to help pay for improvements this summer if the gate is to be opened in time for the detour, she said.
The Transportation Commission’s recommendation is to be brought before City Council at one of its upcoming meetings.
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Former Carbondale trustee Katrina Byars said she wants to bring a voice of environmental sustainability to the commission, and believes her opponent has served long enough.