Locals get the Grand tour
Consultant Troy Russ stood at a downtown Glenwood Springs intersection Wednesday and struggled to make himself heard above the din of passing traffic.”You guys are being assaulted. This street is being assaulted in every way,” Russ told a group of local residents and civic leaders interested in ways of slowing down traffic on Grand Avenue and making downtown friendlier for pedestrians and cyclists.Russ, director of transportation and urban design for the Glatting Jackson community design firm, was leading one of two walking tours organized by the city’s Traffic Efficiencies and Bike and Pedestrian Utilization ad-hoc committee.Farther up Grand, Russ paused again when a truck’s jake brake roared as the truck reached a downtown traffic light.”Don’t you love that brake? He should have been going slow already,” Russ said.Slowing down Grand Avenue traffic also would increase the road’s efficiency, Russ said. Studies show that streets with traffic going 25-30 mph can accommodate more vehicles than those where speeds are higher, because cars don’t need as much braking room between them, he said.Russ and fellow Glatting Jackson consultant Dan Burden, who is also the executive director of Walkable Communities Inc., suggested numerous ways to “calm” traffic on downtown streets through measures that force motorists to be more alert.Among their suggestions are:
• adding bike lanes and reducing vehicle lane widths,• placing raised flower beds amid on-street parking, and building landscaping islands and dividers on roadways,• creating more on-street parking,• installing public art near the southern end of the Grand Avenue bridge,• encouraging construction of more, multi-level commercial and residential units on Grand,• and providing denser, more centrally located housing so more people can live within walking and biking distance of downtown.”The single most traffic-calming thing you can do is introduce a pedestrian,” Russ said.Traffic-calming measures are more cost-effective than investing police man-hours in speed limit enforcement, Russ said. “What we need to do first if there is speeding is design things so they don’t speed,” he said.Other measures could help smooth traffic flow on Grand even while slowing it down, Russ said. He recommends getting rid of some left-turn lanes, and reducing parking lot driveways on Grand by providing more access from alleyways. Landscaped islands could replace the turn lanes. Eliminating driveway space would allow more parking spaces to be created in the lots, and signs could point motorists to the parking lot entries, Russ said.
One key to slowing traffic is to get motorists in the mindset of going slower before they get to downtown, Russ said. In Winter Park, Fla., the city even invests in traffic-calming measures outside city limits, “so that people, when they enter Winter Park … they’re doing so on Winter Park’s terms,” Russ said.Glenwood police chief Terry Wilson voiced support for several of Russ and Burden’s ideas. He said he’d like to see “visual cues” offered to motorists at the edges of town, “so they know they’ve hit a town and start driving like it.” Some of Wednesday’s participants liked the idea of erecting big “Welcome to Glenwood” banners as one means of accomplishing this while reaching out to tourists.Wilson said he also would like to see left-turn lanes removed because they result in a lot of accidents.Glenwood resident Howard Raley said the city also got an experimental look at measures such as doing away with some left-turn lanes and traffic lights when temporary traffic modifications were put in place during this spring’s repaving of downtown Grand Avenue. Traffic “moved slowly but it moved more efficiently through town,” he said.City Council member Chris McGovern said the drawback was the significant losses in business downtown. But Raley said the way to boost those businesses is for local residents to shop at them, rather than elsewhere.”Quit going to Denver to buy your shoes,” he said.Russ and Burden also heard a lot of enthusiasm for their suggestion that angled parking spaces be striped so that motorists have to back into them, rather than pull into them. They say it’s not safe to back into traffic from parking spaces, whereas vehicles that stop and back into spaces are easily seen by motorists and force traffic to slow down. Cars also end up parked so doors open toward the curb rather than toward moving traffic.But Wilson expressed some skepticism about motorists’ ability to park safely in such spaces.
“It doesn’t work at City Market or Wal-Mart because they hit each other backing in and out,” he said.Among other topics of discussion Wednesday:• Russ suggested keeping the east wing street off Grand Avenue open to traffic, unlike the pedestrian mall on the west side. But he said some or all of the parking spaces might be removed, and perhaps a coffee stand or other business could operate there, to increase the area’s appeal. The sidewalk curb there also could replaced with a gutter to give it more of a pedestrian feel.• Participants questioned the rationale for existing one-way side streets on either side of Grand. Russ said one-way streets generally speed up traffic, and are only useful if more parking or wider sidewalks are needed.• Participants suggested Sixth Street in north Glenwood as another area where traffic-calming measures should be considered.Burden and Russ plan to return in later July for a three-day visit, to take a closer look at helping the city make some traffic changes in town. They also consulted with Carbondale and Basalt during this week’s visit.Meanwhile, Glenwood’s ad hoc committee studying these issues is scheduled to make recommendations to the city this summer.Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series. On Friday, the Post Independent will report on a suggestion by consultant Troy Russ that Glenwood Springs should think outside the bypass and consider building a different kind of roadway along the Roaring Fork River corridor.
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