New reasons, another delay for 17th St. calming project

       The 17th Street traffic calming project, which was originally proposed nine years ago, hit another bump in the road at a neighborhood meeting Aug. 6 when several residents said they did not like the traffic-circle element that a previous neighborhood meeting had OK'd in 2005.
       Also, city officials David Krauth and Kristin Bennett revealed that the calming program citywide has funding issues. After pointing out that 17th (which passes Buena Vista Elementary between Colorado Avenue and Uintah Street) is a strong candidate for a grant that pays for street improvements near schools, they gained an evident consensus from the roughly 25 people on hand to wait for a grant-application process that would delay any calming work until at least next summer.
       Krauth, the city's principal traffic engineer, expressed surprise at the anti-traffic circle feedback from about two-thirds of the 25 people on hand - nearly all of whom had not been at the 2005 meeting. Others advocated ideas the city had previously rejected for reasons of cost and/or lack of effectiveness, including speed bumps, more stop signs or straightening the curve at Armstrong Avenue.
       “This is a completely different meeting than I anticipated,” Krauth said. “We had agreement before [in '05] on this approach.”
       Bennett, a city planner who heads the traffic-calming program, added her opinion that some people who had attended the '05 meeting had stayed home in the belief that this meeting would just be a repeat of that one.
       But when a person asked if residents at the current meeting were just “flapping our gums,” Krauth said no and pledged to take the comments to the city manager and other staff to see if yet another meeting should be scheduled.
       Krauth noted that the meeting had been suggested by City Council member Tom Gallagher (who was not present).
       A couple of those opposed said they have lived in the 17th Street area a long time and had not been aware of the '05 meeting. They should have been on the list, Bennett said.
       The traffic circle (smaller than a roundabout) was designed for the Boulder intersection, in the segment of 17th between the school and Uintah where city studies have shown 85 percent of the cars going over 35 mph. The idea is to slow traffic by making them go around the circle. Bennett said that in cities such as Seattle residents value the circles and have been known to voluntarily landscape them or put public art in them.
       Residents gave several reasons for their traffic-circle opposition, including safety (cars possibly running into corner properties because they take the circle too fast, or iffy city snow removal resulting in black ice that could cause spinouts) and the belief that drivers would detour to adjacent streets to avoid the circle. Krauth disagreed, but did not offer statistics to prove otherwise.
       He then got another surprise - when the residents gave unanimous straw-poll approval to the plan element for “bump-outs” (little widenings out from the curb) where 17th intersects Bijou and Platte. But a resident suggestion to try bump-outs first and see if that solved the problem (before putting in a traffic circle) prompted Krauth to say that on relatively small projects like this one (tentatively priced at $100,000), the city would only want to go in once and do it all (though monitoring of the work afterward would occur).
       The grant would be through the Safe Route to Schools program, which the city has used succesfully before. Krauth said he is “95 percent certain” that the 17th Street project would qualify. But he couldn't guarantee approval. He also noted that delaying 17th now would mean that other projects on the city's calming priority list could go ahead of it. Bennett added that between construction cost increases and the city having ceased funding the calming program, the existing funds are not enough for all of the approved calming projects.
       Going into the meeting, 17th Street had been the top-priority calming project in the city because it had been in the queue the longest.

Westside Pioneer article