Study predicts increase in commuters, traffic in GarCo |

Study predicts increase in commuters, traffic in GarCo

Donna GrayPost Independent Staff

The more things change, the more they remain the same – that’s the conclusion of an updated travel patterns study the Garfield County Commissioners reviewed this week.While the general patterns of who goes where along the valley’s highways have remained relatively constant, some things have changed since 1998, the 2004 Local and Regional Travel Patterns Study found.Travel on Highway 82 is now a little easier for people driving between Basalt and Aspen since the Colorado Department of Transportation spent $200 million on four-laning the highway, the study found.However, about a third of the workers in the valley live and work in different towns.Further, the report, which Healthy Mountain Communities, RRC Associates and Charlier Associates prepared, predicted that over the next 20 years the percentage of people who live and work in the same town will continue to decline. Jobs are expected to grow in number, especially in Pitkin County and Glenwood Springs, but population increases will not keep up, so workers will continue to be imported to fill those jobs.Traffic will continue to clog valley roadways and will only get worse, increasing 50 percent in the upper valley to more than 80 percent in parts of the Interstate 70 corridor, said Colin Laird, of Healthy Mountain Communities.The good news is, a lot of people carpool to work every day. About 20 percent of the people surveyed for the study said they carpool, compared to 5 percent in Denver and 6 percent in Portland, Ore.The report recommended fixes to the growing traffic problem, ranging from more bus service to a better “walking environment.””We need a collector road network. We think that’s going to be really important,” Laird said.But the county commissioners were not buying the advice.”How do you get the land to build them?” asked Commissioner John Martin, who pointed out the study’s recommendations did not take into consideration the valley’s limited geography. Nor did the commissioners like the idea of building what they see as suburban roads in the county.”You’re talking about paving half of Garfield County,” Martin said. Instead, roads should keep their country character even if it means being more congested than people would like.”If people will live in the country they have to be a little slower-moving,” he said.Commissioner Trési Houpt suggested that improving valley roads can be accomplished only in cooperation with municipal governments.”I don’t think it means overdeveloping roads, but more strategic planning,” she said.Commissioner Larry McCown had another take on the issue of moving people through the valley.”One thing that comes out to me (in the report) is not the transportation problem, but what you’re not addressing: the housing problem,” he said.For people to be able to live where they work, housing needs to be more affordable, a problem that continues to plague local governments in this inflated resort economy.The economy will take care of itself, McCown said, and employers will find workers for available jobs.

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