Mulhall column: The pachyderm in the council chamber
Last week, a social media post asking whether Glenwood should reopen Seventh Street to traffic after months of post-bridge-construction closure got a lot of attention, judging by comments.
Then, the PI ran an article on this reopening question (“Some question whether Seventh Street should reopen to vehicles after beautification,” July 30, 2019).
The PI website also posted an opinion poll, which was a bejeweled example of how to nuance an otherwise binary question.
The question “should Glenwood reopen Seventh Street?” became “should Glenwood’s new ‘festival street’ (Seventh) be reopened to vehicle traffic?”
“Glenwood’s new ‘festival street?’”
No guesswork needed there.
As of last Monday, with 302 votes, the poll leaned 44% “no”—leave Seventh Street closed to vehicular traffic.
I would have answered yes — at least for the time being.
According to the PI article, City Council’s fractured on reopening Seventh, if not a bit wagged by this social-media-instigated question.
I recently sat in on a council meeting to learn more about the city’s stance on the homeless. I came away with more than intended.
For one, I discovered that one way to allay boredom at a council meeting, and dare I say while watching a Democrat presidential debate for that matter, is to play Earth, Wind and Fire in your head and imagine the folks on stage stepping into a tightly choreographed electric slide while belting out the refrain, “I find romance when I start to dance in Boogie Wonderland.”
I did, however, pay close enough attention to hear discussions about prohibiting flags on the bridge, mountain bike trails, and a possible traffic study costing $600K.
That traffic study price tag dispelled my puerile, C-student reverie and pinned my eyebrows to my forehead.
Then, a staff member asked council to consider participating in the study with RFTA for the bargain price of $300K. For this, the city would get, among other things, a list of possible locations for a new BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) station. Not, mind you, to service points up valley, but to service Glenwood’s downtown core.
Any vision of Glenwood Springs as some kind of Zermatt of the Rockies left town perhaps on the very day Floyd Diemoz gave up on a bypass.
When your main street is a state highway that bisects a U.S. Interstate within your city limits, any vision of a pedestrian downtown core plays a distant fiddle not only to vehicular traffic, but the state of Colorado, too.
It’s a first world, Aspen-zero-growth kind of problem.
And if you think downtown vehicular traffic might get better, drive to Denver on a Sunday afternoon, or any afternoon for that matter. With all the efficacy of a “traffic calming” measure, skinny express lanes and roomy three-lane tunnels have outlived their abilities to avoid parking lot congestion between Eisenhower and C470. It’s a problem that once was limited to the eastbound lanes, and is now nearly as prevalent westbound.
On this, Glenwood Springs and Colorado have a fundamental constraint in common: There ain’t but one direct route through.
Sure, there are ways through Glenwood without driving Grand, just as there are ways to drive Colorado without I-70. But, alas, sometimes the shortest distance between two points is Grand Avenue.
Is it the fastest? Usually not. But sometimes it is. At certain times of night.
Yes, despite our new bridge and the festival street that runs under it, vehicular traffic will again exceed Grand Avenue’s capacity. In anticipation of that day, prepare to lose Grand Avenue parking altogether and gain lane expansion construction projects from 13th Street south, courtesy of “Blacktop Charlie.”
And, if you regard the north bridge traffic jerk as one of a kind, wait until you see the exit 116 redesign.
On that day, Seventh Street may be the only sane east-west pedestrian corridor anywhere in Glenwood.
Mitch Mulhall is a husband, father and longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com.
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