Traffic trouble comes from trucks
When I saw the article, “Consultant says bypass the bypass,” in last Friday’s Glenwood Springs Post Independent, which reported that the city’s traffic consultants were recommending a residential street in the railroad corridor as the solution to our downtown traffic problem instead of an arterial thoroughfare, I couldn’t believe what I was reading.
There is no question that increasing traffic is overwhelming Grand Avenue ” the heart of downtown Glenwood Springs. Traffic studies project gridlock conditions within 15 years unless significant action is taken to contend with traffic growth. Measures such as “traffic-calming” devices to make streets more pedestrian and bicycle friendly should be encouraged, but in no way will they be able to cope with the coming increase in traffic. And they will do nothing to reduce the truck traffic on Grand Avenue. Neither will adding another residential street.
What is really destroying Glenwood Springs’ downtown is not automobiles, it’s the heavy through-truck traffic. Compare our downtown with Basalt’s and Carbondale’s. They have the automobiles, but are blessed to be bypassed by through-truck traffic.
A 10-year-old traffic count showed that trucks accounted for 4 to 5 percent of the number of vehicles on Grand Avenue. Today, that has probably increased to more like 6 to 7 percent, and during daytime hours, trucks may account for as much as 8 to 10 percent of the vehicle count. The fact that a single truck can occupy as much space as three automobiles tells you that trucks may be taking up 24-30 percent of the roadway. And on the Grand Avenue bridge, where a single truck often occupies both lanes, that impact is doubled.
The sheer volume of trucks on Grand Avenue is compounded by the threatening nature of their size and their thunderous roar. How can we have a pedestrian-friendly downtown under such conditions?
During the nine years I was on the city’s Transportation Commission (1994 -2002), the city conducted a number of studies and concluded that a major thoroughfare along the railroad corridor would provide the only practical way of diverting through-truck traffic from Grand Avenue.
Such a thoroughfare should include connections to Grand Avenue at both ends (at Eighth Street and at 23rd Street) and in the middle (14th Street). This would enable both commuter and local truck traffic to access various destinations in Glenwood Springs without having to run the length of Grand Avenue. A railroad corridor thoroughfare would mitigate both of Grand Avenue’s traffic problems by providing a bypass route for much of the truck traffic and giving local traffic convenient alternatives to access downtown destinations.
Without a new major thoroughfare through town, nothing truly constructive will be accomplished. Glenwood Springs will be condemned to a steady worsening of the present blight which is eating away at our downtown, and will ultimately relegate Grand Avenue to become nothing but a state highway, trucks and all, dividing our city right up the middle.
Any plan that we adopt will be virtually worthless if it does not address the issue of truck traffic. It’s the trucks, stupid!
Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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