City’s, CDOT’s goals diametrically opposed
The city’s “traffic-calming” consultants had lots of ideas. Unfortunately, they have ignored the realities of the situation. …First, their recommendations don’t stand a chance of coping with the increase in traffic which will accompany the more than 50 percent population growth projected for Garfield County between 2000 and 2020.Second, they seem to have discounted the reality that the city’s Grand Avenue and the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Highway 82 occupy the same space. CDOT’s goal is to move traffic through Glenwood Springs as quickly and safely as possible, whereas Glenwood Springs’ goal is to slow traffic down and make downtown bicycle and pedestrian friendly. It should be obvious to anyone that these two goals are diametrically opposed, and the unavoidable fact is that CDOT calls the shots.After spending $4.5 million on nearly a mile of Grand Avenue to enhance traffic flow, will CDOT be inclined to permit narrower lanes, raised medians, or islands to slow traffic down? Never! Slowing traffic would back incoming vehicles into the Interstate 70 through lanes, creating a major accident hazard.The consultant’s suggestion of traffic circles at Sixth and Laurel streets, and at 23rd Street and Grand Avenue, sound great until you realize that they would require more space than is available to provide the necessary two lanes and the size circle needed to accommodate the turning radius of large semi-trailer trucks.The suggestion of a two-lane residential street in the railroad corridor reminds me of Mark Skrotski’s comments in 1974, opposing the pending construction of I-70 though Glenwood Canyon – “It is impossible to put such a highway through this canyon without permanently scarring the several-million-year-old geologic formations,” and “We see no clearly demonstrated need to alter the present highway.” He later modified his position by proposing a two-lane highway and a 6-foot bicycle path, both of which would have proven to be totally inadequate.I do agree with the consultant’s statement, “Money should not be your issue. Set priorities and get broad-based support and the money will follow.” The problem is that the priorities he is suggesting, although they may sound good, are head-in-the-sand measures that are impractical and would accomplish very little.The only way to make Grand Avenue pedestrian- and bicycle friendly is to reduce the number of cars, and especially trucks. And the only way to accomplish that is to provide a four-lane relocation of Highway 82 for them to get through town, with at least three accesses into town. Only then can Glenwood Springs reclaim Grand Avenue as its own.Obviously, the cost of relocating approximately 112 miles of Highway 82, including bridges across the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers, will run into the tens of millions of dollars. This cost should be borne by CDOT, with federal assistance and some participation by Glenwood Springs and Garfield County. But as Dan Burden said, “Set priorities and get broad-based support and the money will follow.” The first step, as Mayor Emery has explained, is to start the required planning process. Without a plan, nothing will happen except that the traffic morass will only get worse, and Grand Avenue and Glenwood Springs will be the victims.Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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