Rifle moves ahead with downtown plans
City prepares for next year’s project to replace utilities and reconstruct Railroad Avenue and Third Street downtown
After presenting three reconstruction concepts and receiving public feedback, the city of Rifle now has a final plan for next year’s downtown project.
The project is driven by the need to fix poor drainage on Railroad Avenue and Third Street.
Craig Spaulding, city of Rifle civil engineer, said storm drain pipes under the road have holes in them, which cause ruts in the road.
“Because of the importance of Railroad Avenue and Third Street to Rifle we are trying to be a little proactive and not wait for it to completely fail,” Spaulding said.
To help with costs later down the road the city is planning to replace all utilities including the waterline, which isn’t expected to fail but is near the end of its life expectancy.
“We are going to replace it now so it is on the same cycle as the road and the sidewalk, so we are not tearing into what we build now,” Spaulding said.
The city used feedback from a resident survey in the final design, which they presented at the end of January.
“Based off of that, people were excited about the landscaping and beautifications, but didn’t want to sacrifice parking,” Spaulding said. “With that we scaled it back, actually gaining spots to the original plans by moving things around.”
The old parking downtown was at a 60-degree angle, which is not to code by city of Rifle standards.
Over the holidays the city reset the parking lines to a 45-degree angle.
Changing to the 45-degrees gives approximately 2 feet more width, which gives retailers area for signage, and more room for street design.
“In doing it you can actually stay in your lane and park, whereas before you had to take up both lanes to get in and out of the spots,” Spaulding said.
With the new parking, Third Street loses a total of 30 parking spaces, which is 10-16 less than with the original concepts.
“There was a lot of concern at first because of the parking, we’ve addressed that and people who had concerns about the parking are now more on board with the plan,” Greater Rifle Improvement Team Manager Kim Burner said. “They understand that we have to make it 45-degree parking, now that’s the only real place we are losing parking.”
The city will go with a curbless design with the new plan, giving the corridor more flexibility for the present and the future of downtown.
Currently drainage goes into a curb near the sidewalk, and pools up where businesses have to go out and shovel it to prevent water and ice issues.
“By draining it toward the street we get rid of the curb, which makes it accessible for everybody for the entire block,” Spaulding said. “It will also put all the ice and buildup on the edge of the street where snow plows or sweepers can run, lowering the maintenance and improving accessibility.”
Burner added that with the new plan it offers a versatility that gives businesses outdoor seating in the summer and more parking in the winter.
Both Spaulding and Burner said this was a major concern for many citizens and businesses.
“It is really thinking forward that what works today, may not be what the citizens want in 10 years,” Burner said.
“This plan gives the flexibility to be whatever people want in the future without having to tear it all up and do it again.”
The city just completed a project called potholing, which helps locate utilities to help speed up the process and keeps construction delays to a minimum when the project does begin next year.
“The utilities were put in in the late ’70s and ’80s during the first big gas boom here, it was all put in really quickly. By finding it now it makes it faster when we are doing the actual construction, so we are disrupting business less,” Burner said.
Spaulding said he is currently working on finishing grant application for both the Department of Local Affairs and Federal Mineral Lease District for the project, which is estimated to cost $4.5 million, which would replace everything.
The city plans to save some projects that can wait, to be practical with the budget.
Spaulding said most of the money will come from grants. Out of the $4.5 million, $800,000 will come from the street improvement fund.
“There is a lot of work to be done with the Xcel utilities, and Xcel actually covering that, so we are undergrounding some of the power lines,” Spaulding said.
The city won’t know about the local affairs grant until July of this year, so the project is slated for spring 2021.
“We will wait until we get all of our grants. There might be some backbone work that goes in this fall,” Spaulding said.
The city plans to improve the parking lot between the Rifle House and West Second Street on Railroad Avenue, which will add 15 spaces to parking downtown.
During construction, parking will be detoured to the lot as the city plans closures in quarter- or half-block parcels when crews are doing the construction next year.
The city is also adding spots on Fifth Street and is talking with the owners of the Be Healthy Stay Fit Bistro at the corner of Railroad Avenue and Fifth Street to use their parking lot after hours, which would create more than 20 additional parking spaces for downtown events.
“It will be as early in the spring as we can start. We want to do it during the mud season when business is slowest. Try to get everything that is going to be impactful done before tourism starts coming in,” Spaulding said.
“It’s kind of weather dependent in Colorado, but as early as we can based on the weather, with work extending into the summer.”
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