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Mixed signals

Glenwood Springs city officials are frustrated that Grand Avenue traffic light changes aimed at reducing rush-hour backups during construction last year remain in effect today.The changes provided for longer green lights for motorists on Grand, which also is state Highway 82. But they made it hard for pedestrians to get across the city’s main thoroughfare, or for motorists to get onto Grand from side streets, particularly when making left turns at rush hour.”It’s certainly helpful for the commuters, but it comes at the expense of people trying to use their own town. The people who live in town are having trouble getting across the streets,” City Council member Chris McGovern said.Colorado Department of Transportation spokesperson Nancy Shanks said the agency is looking at changing signal sequencing again to address the concerns downtown. But it’s not as simple as returning the signal timing to what it was before last year’s construction, she said.Traffic volumes have increased since then. Also, traffic patterns in town have changed after the intersection of Eighth Street and Midland Avenue was rebuilt and a traffic light was installed there, and roundabouts were put in at the West Glenwood interchange of Interstate 70, on the west end of Midland. CDOT wants to analyze the latest traffic data before deciding how to sequence Grand Avenue lights.Midland Avenue serves as an alternate route to Grand for motorists trying to get through town. CDOT wants to find out how much traffic is traveling on Midland rather than Grand since the construction was completed.Closures last year during the Midland/Eighth and roundabout projects resulted in big rush-hour traffic backups on Grand until CDOT changed the traffic signal patterns on the road.”I’ll give them credit where it’s due,” said Sandy Boyd, owner of Glenwood Sewing Center in downtown Glenwood. “It did cut down on some of that really bad backing-up of traffic that was going on.”But with completion of the intersection and roundabout projects in the fall, the signal changes put in place last year no longer are needed, yet people downtown continue to live with their consequences, Boyd said.”My personal opinion is that CDOT is concentrating really hard on 82 and that’s working, but that’s really working to the detriment of the local people,” she said.She said pedestrians are given only 15 seconds to cross, not long enough for those who may be on crutches or in a wheelchair.Shanks said CDOT is aware of the city’s concerns. In fact, a CDOT traffic and safety engineer is scheduled to meet today with new city engineer Mike McDill, and the traffic signals will be a topic of discussion, she said.”Whatever we will do … we will do in partnership with Glenwood Springs,” she said.Shanks said CDOT has to strike a tricky balance between addressing the needs of pedestrians and side-street motorists, and avoiding traffic jams on Grand, which in the morning can result in dangerous backups onto Interstate 70. Changing signal patterns without considering current traffic data could make things worse rather than better, she said.City manager Jeff Hecksel said the city has inquired several times into the signal problem, and CDOT always has been responsive. The city’s exasperation lies in how long it has taken to get something done about it, he said.”Clearly, they’re working on it. It’s just that it’s not done yet. And it’s frustrating because it’s hard to get across the street,” he said.He said the latest indication from CDOT is that the signals may be changed in early March. Shanks said she expects the agency will have the results of its traffic analysis available by then.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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