$50K study looked at downtown traffic
I wish to respond to two “letters to the editor” and an anonymous segment for your “Cheers & Jeers” column that were published in your paper. They contained incorrect and out-of-context information. Specifically, I am referring to claims made that the city of Glenwood Springs paid $50,000 for a traffic circulation study just to switch a section of one-way traffic between Ninth and 10th on Cooper Avenue to two-way traffic. Part of the goal of the study was to better accommodate/facilitate the usage of our new parking structure. In order to fully understand what actually happened, it is important to look at the impetus that led to the traffic study. Here is a time line of how the decisions were made.
• In March 2012 the City Council approved a development permit for the parking garage on Cooper Avenue. Condition No. 3 stated: “Following certificate of occupancy, the City shall embark on a comprehensive study of the Downtown circulation system and include an analysis of the conversion of existing one way streets to allow for two way traffic.”
• In September 2012 Council, by motion, “directed staff to begin preparing a scope of work for a traffic study on Downtown circulation not to exceed $50,000, and incorporate in the study a citizen advisory committee consisting of three citizens selected by application the same as people from other boards and commissions.”
• In June 2013, the council reaffirmed its commitment to the process approved in September 2012.
• In August 2013, the City Council reviewed a scope of work for the traffic circulation study and approved the mission and goals/work plan for the advisory committee. The scope of work included:
1. A traffic circulation analysis to include an analysis and recommendation of the most efficient routes to the city’s new parking garage located at Ninth and Cooper Avenue from north and south bound Grand Avenue, including a recommendation for a parking reconfiguration on Cooper Avenue between Ninth and 10th streets.
2. An evaluation of traffic and pedestrian circulation in downtown Glenwood Springs, including current and 20-year projected traffic volumes, intersection control and parking configurations. The consultant will then make recommendations to the city to optimize vehicular and pedestrian circulation to the existing parking garage and the planned additional parking facility on the west side of Grand Avenue and to optimize parking configurations and intersection control in the downtown area.
3. A stop sign warrant analysis at Seventh Street and Colorado Avenue including the effects of intersection control on traffic flow at the intersection of Eighth and Midland Avenue.
When the city issued a request for proposal (RFP) for the above scope of work, six bids ranging in cost from $25,330 to $66,530 were received. As is the case for all bids the city receives, each one is reviewed and evaluated by established sets of criteria by staff. While cost is certainly one of those evaluation points, it is not the only one. Bids are awarded based on how well they meet all evaluation criteria. According to the city manager and the city engineer, the portion of the work that studied only the conversion of one-way to two-way traffic flows on Cooper Avenue was between $9,000 and $11,000. Invoices that were submitted were not broken down specifically for each component of the study, therefore staff had to estimate to come up with that figure. Based on all this, a contract was awarded in the amount of $49,884.
At this point, I feel it is important to note why the City Council made the traffic study a condition of the development approval. While most council members stated that the conversion of the one-way to two-way made sense, we cannot simply just change traffic flows without regard to consequence.
Specifically, in order to cover any liability the city may incur, a study is needed to justify the change. Perhaps even more important is the fact that this council felt it necessary to give those residents who live in the area most affected by the change a chance to participate in the process. The appointed ad-hoc citizens committee devoted its time and energy to deliver a recommendation to the council. In the end, not a single person complained about the change, and all those affected had the opportunity to weigh in.
Finally, the council recognized the fact that we have a lot of big transportation changes/projects coming our way in the next couple of years. This is why we instructed staff to take a broader look at all the downtown traffic flows so we will be ahead of the curve when these changes begin to take place and so we will be in a better position to make informed decisions.
Could we have just arbitrarily changed the one-way to a two-way on Cooper? Yes, but the possible consequences outweighed the perceived benefits. We as a council also felt it inappropriate to hold ourselves to a different set of standards than what we impose on any other developments or developers. As you can see, we did not spend $50,000 to change one block of one-way traffic to two-way; rather the traffic study included the entire downtown with specific attention to several sections. In the end, the cost of this endeavor was money well spent.
Leo McKinney is mayor of Glenwood Springs.
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