What road is that again?
Plan for little-known 31st Street extension impacts White Acres, Red Rock
The first four of the five phases of the city's White Acres purchase are easy enough to understand. Each is a sizeable piece of the 45-acre hillside property.
The odd one is the half-acre Phase 5, located in the property's northeast corner. On the map accompanying the White Acres ordinance, it is described as a “proposed road” and juts north from the intersection that already has 26th Street/Bear Creek Road, Gold Camp/Lower Gold Camp Road and Wheeler Avenue.
The question of that right of way has popped up occasionally during White Acres discussions, usually in the half-humorous context that it must be some holdover from long-forgotten government plans.
Not so, according to City Transportation Planner Craig Blewitt, who has been with the city more than 20 years. “It's not without reason” that it's stayed on the city's map of long-range projects (called the “Major Thoroughfare Plan”),” he said.
Here's what the “proposed road” would do. From the 26th/Gold Camp/Wheeler intersecton, it would continue north-northeast about a mile and a quarter through currently open land to link with the current end of 31st Street at Robinson Street. Combined with city efforts in recent years to build Lower Gold Camp Road east from 21st Street to Rio Grande Street, such a link would allow unbroken travel from 8th to 31st Street.
“In the southwest part of town there aren't a lot of arterials,” Blewitt said, when asked about the need for the road extension. “People define their own paths.”
Twenty-nine years ago, Westsiders went on record in support of the idea. It was touted as an “east-west arterial” in the 1980 Westside Plan that citizens worked on with city planners. “This is not a direct connection but it appears to be the only feasible routing for a through arterial,” the Plan states. “It would probably be the least disruptive of any of the possibilities...”
It's not readily known how long ago the idea was born. According to Blewitt, there was an earlier, grander idea involving a westerly extension of Fountain Boulevard (which now terminates at both Sierra Madre Street and Nevada Avenue). The idea was to have Fountain connect with the new Westside arterial - thus providing the city with its ever-elusive goal of an unbroken east-west road. But at some point that proposal died, possibly because of the costs of the bridge(s) that would have been needed over the railroad tracks and I-25.
But the city has diligently nurtured the plan for the 31st Street extension to Lower Gold Camp. In purchasing Red Rock Canyon Open Space in 2003, City Parks Development Manager Chris Lieber said care was taken to use less restrictive conservation trust funds in buying the acreage along the eastern edges of the nearly 800-acre property. This will allow a future public road to be built through that part of Red Rock, Lieber said.
One impact on Red Rock Canyon, when the extension is built, will be at Red Rock's masterplanned trailhead off 26th Street (about a quarter-mile north of White Acres). The access, otherwise unimpeded, would intersect with the road. Lieber agreed planning for that crossing would require careful thought, when (or if) the situation arises. However, he observed, “It's been over 30 years already [without the road being built]. It's far in the future.”
How far, nobody can say. No funding has been prioritized for the work, not even in the longest-range government forecasts (into the early 2030s). Easements would be also be needed from some private property owners along the route. Does anybody know the record for the longest amount of time a road has been in the planning stages?
Westside Pioneer article