Uptick in Rifle traffic becoming more noticeable
How much has traffic increased in Rifle — if at all?
Railroad Avenue, in particular, seems to be the focal point of this question. Especially when Rifle Middle School gets out around 4 p.m. weekdays, the combination of hundreds of students leaving school and the afternoon rush hour can create a bottleneck of stop-and-go traffic.
Rifle City Manager Scott Hahn said he believes there’s been an uptick.
“I used to go through town here 20 years ago quite a bit and there’s certainly a lot more people than there used to be,” Hahn said. “But every time you go out the door, it just seems like Railroad Avenue has a constant stream of cars and it’s just amazing.”
“I have had comments from the other people who’ve been here for a long time and they said, ‘Oh no, it’s definitely increased over the last couple of years,’” he added.
But if there actually is an increase in traffic, is there data to back that claim up?
Colorado Department of Transportation figures show slight increases in traffic in recent years. Based on data collected from a CDOT short duration station set up along Railroad Avenue, 6 p.m. traffic increased from 815 vehicles on July 7, 2015 to 1,028 vehicles on July 24, 2019 (2019 is the most recent year data is available).
More recent data show traffic on Colorado Highway 13 has also seen a slight uptick. Noon seems to be the busiest hour of the day on this roadway and shows traffic increased from 116 vehicles on Jan. 31, 2016 to 159 vehicles on Jan. 31, 2021.
Granted, the data don’t necessarily reflect everything, but the upticks do suggest a trend. But there are other speculations and data to gauge the noticeable increases in traffic.
Hahn said he hears rumors that perhaps there are more extended family members moving into households. Another speculation: Increase in cost of living continues to perhaps send folks further west.
“People are doubling up in places because, who knows? The (COVID-19) and employment effects and the cost of living is getting so darn high,” Hahn said. “There’s several pieces of information that you have to conclude something’s going on here.”
City planner Nathan Lindquist speculates an increase in development has created more bumper-to-bumper traffic within the city. City figures for 2020 show 23 new homes built, including a 50-unit senior apartment building.
“This was the most residential construction in Rifle since the Great Recession,” Lindquist writes in an email to the Citizen Telegram. “In 2021 we already have 10 permits in for houses, plus several commercial projects are in the works.”
Lindquist said, however, that development in Rifle isn’t the big reason why there’s an uptick in traffic.
“I think that would be more likely to be caused by an increase in housing construction in the Roaring Fork Valley, and the workforce commute from Rifle,” he wrote. “But this is all just speculation, because I don’t know the RF Valley stats or any traffic stats from Rifle.”
Glenwood Springs Assistant Economic/Community Development Director Gretchen Ricehill was asked how much development exactly is in the works on the east side of Garfield County.
“It’s crazy busy in Glenwood,” she said.
Glenwood Springs’ building permit figures for housing projects currently show 563 units in the works.
“Most of those units are multi-family,” Ricehill said. “We’re talking in the hundreds.”
Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein said he thinks this increased building elsewhere is contributing to congestion along Railroad Avenue
“I know there’s a trend of people living down-valley because property and housing has just become so expensive up valley,” he said. “So I think we’ll see more people continue to move to Rifle and the Rifle area as the market pushes people out of Glenwood and places up-valley.”
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