No resolution yet on Blake Avenue plans in Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs Transportation Commissioner Ralph Trapani is frustrated that the Blake Gate is still closed.
At a meeting on Election Day, the commission heard a presentation about and discussed for more than two hours configuration alternatives for the southern part of Blake Avenue.
Trapani said that for at least 10 years the commission has been in favor of opening the gate.
“We need to pass a basic resolution stating the commission’s view on opening the gate,” he said.
Assistant city manager Jennifer Ooton said Glenwood Springs City Council had voted to open the gate but only after a public meeting, and staff had recommended keeping it closed. Council then voted unanimously to keep the gate closed until a certificate of occupancy is issued for a building at the Bell Rippy development.
Councilor Charlie Willman pointed out that the Bell-Rippy developer will be making improvements to the road. Opening the gate would require road improvements, and to do so only to have the developer damage it during construction would be wasting money.
Commissioner Sandy Lowell made an 11th-hour motion to recommend to City Council that the gate be opened on a temporary basis as soon as possible, which Trapani seconded.
However, the motion did not go to a vote as too many members had to leave for other business as the meeting passed 10 a.m.
Much of the meeting was reviewing four alternatives for upgrading Blake Avenue presented by assistant city engineer Jessica Bowser.
Alternative Zero would fix the road without making any other improvements or changes.
Alternative 1a would make Blake one way between 23rd and 27th streets.
Alternative 1 would be two-way with “advisory bike lanes” on Blake.
Advisory bike lanes are for narrow, low volume, low speed roads. Cars can cross into the bike lanes to avoid oncoming traffic, but whoever is in front of a lane— be it pedestrian, bike or car — has the right of way, Bowser explained.
Alternative 2 would be two-way with a bike and pedestrian path raised by 3 inches.
Bowser presented the alternatives in order of relative cost. 1a is estimated to cost 1.1 times Alternative Zero; 1 would cost 1.3 times as much; and 2 would cost 1.4 times as much.
Trapani said a raised path, Alternative 2, would be too dangerous for skinny-tired bicycles.
Lowell said that keeping Blake one way between 26th and 27th, Alternative 1a, would be “perfect” in that it would keep the character of the neighborhoods.
City engineer Terri Partch said that she would prefer to keep city roads in full circulation and that if Blake were one way southbound to 27th Street it would be just like moving the Blake Gate to 27th Street.
Commissioner Steve Smith, also a member of Glenwood Springs Bicycle Advocates, responded to an assertion by Commissioner Lee Barger that pedestrians and bikes can function as traffic calming devices. While he agreed with the concept, he said it’s only valid if pedestrians and bikers are safely separated from vehicles. With advisory bike lanes, Alternative 1, there is no separation from vehicles.
Smith suggested more than once that there should be enough width on Blake for two lanes of traffic and one sidewalk and asked staff for a relative cost comparison of that option.
Bowser pointed out that while the right of way is wide enough to allow a sidewalk that would require wider pavement, tree removal and drainage work, all raising costs.
Commissioner John Stephens also said advisory lanes won’t work.
“I really like the advisory lanes, but I don’t think it’s practical in this situation,” he said.
There would be too much traffic from people avoiding Grand Avenue for it to be safe for pedestrians and bikers, he said.
Commissioner Robert Gavrell saw a traffic dichotomy.
“We have long-term goals in this city and short-term realities,” he said.
While improving circulation is laudable, opening the Blake Gate would be a detriment to the community, he said.
He said a good compromise would be making Blake one way southbound to 27th, Alternative 1a, but he wanted to hear what residents of Palmer Avenue thought about that as Palmer could become a Grand Avenue bypass.
He suggested trying Blake as one-way for six months.
In public comment, Scott Kramer referenced a petition with 93 signatures of area residents against making Blake one way as it would force traffic onto Palmer.
Erin Lee agreed, saying that Palmer “would become a freeway.”
Dick O’Connell agreed with Smith about sidewalks but said the city can’t afford it. He suggested opening the gate for a couple of months with Blake two way, as one-way would disrupt traffic dramatically.
Bowser summarized comments submitted to the city. Only one out of nine commenters didn’t like advisory bike lanes; one-way was the most popular option but only by a little bit; seven did not like the two-way option; and everyone wanted more traffic calming.
With little agreement among commissioners or the public, Partch said the commission did not need to make a decision as the Bell-Rippy construction could go into 2022.
There was general agreement to continue the discussion at the next meeting.
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.