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What to do? Consensus proves elusive in city's OCC traffic-needs study

       When Colorado Springs Transportation hired a consultant in 2016 to study Old Colorado City's business-related traffic issues, the hope was to get some answers.
       As it turns out, the $90,000 study of Colorado Avenue between 21st and 31st streets - focusing particularly on OCC between 24th and 27th - has led to more questions.
       Before City Transportation Manager Kathleen Krager put the Kimley-Horn study on hold this summer (with not all the money spent), the consultant produced an eight-page
As giant pumpkins were lifted onto the scales in Old Town Plaza for the annual Weigh-off in October 2015, four lanes of traffic continued to carry motorized travelers along adjacent Colorado Avenue through Old Colorado City. The recently released Colorado Avenue Assessment shows average avenue speeds at 36 mph (in a 25 mph zone).
Westside Pioneer file photo
document titled “Colorado Avenue Mobility, Parking & Economic Opportunity Assessment,” which confesses to uncertainty about what to do next.
       The document identifies “three potential solutions,” but elaborates that each “emphasizes a different focus area” regarding transportation issues, and “the city would like additional input to provide guidance on preferences and priorities.”
       As Krager summarized to the August meeting of the Old Colorado City Special Improvement Maintenance District (SIMD), “we got to a point where we have more questions than we originally thought.”
       According to the Assessment, these are the solution-focus possibilities:
The cover of the Colorado Avenue Assessment document is shown. Copies of the eight-page document were given to the committee for the Old Colorado City Special Improvement Maintenance District (SIMD) at its August meeting.
Westside Pioneer scan; courtesy of Kimley-Horn and Colorado Springs Transportation
- Traffic. This concept suggests keeping the current four lanes with parallel parking, but creating a median that is “landscaped or otherwise differentiated from travel lanes and can be effective in reducing travel speeds.”
       - Parking. A parking-focused solution would have two lanes (one each way), making room for diagonal parking along Colorado Avenue. This would result in more on-street parking. “Traffic operations are compromised, but only marginally,” the Avenue Assessment states.
       - Pedestrians. With this type of focus, traffic would also be reduced to two lanes, but retain the parallel parking and widen the sidewalks. This would "provide room for sidewalk activity,” the document states. The number of parking spaces would come from evening out the curbs along each block as part of the widening.
       An adjunct to the pedestrian topic is how to route bicycles. Krager had once directed that avenue bicycle lanes be included in any Old Colorado City traffic solution, but the Avenue Assessment states that “the study team received mixed messages” on that point. “Should cyclists be accommodated on Colorado Avenue or a parallel corridor?” Kimley-Horn asks.
       Krager requested that SIMD committee members (who have to be Old Colorado City property owners) start talking to others in the historic district to gain a consensus on which of the solutions for the city to aim at.
       Adding to the aura of perplexity, members of the SIMD had questions for Krager. If there is a perceivable, long-time consensus in OCC, it's to slow
Appointed by former Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, Kathleen Krager has been the city's transportation manager since April 2012. She is shown here at a 2016 public meeting in Holland Park.
Westside Pioneer file photo
traffic there. The SIMD members were dismayed to learn that none of the three identified solutions could happen anytime soon, and they wanted to know what could be done about speeding now.
       The Kimley-Horn study came about because of such concerns. The two-laning idea, with diagonal parking, dates back to 2007, when the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) business group board voted in favor of it.
       However, in a separate, recent interview, OCCA President Julie Fabrizio said that currently there is “controversy” about two-laning among the OCCA board members. “Some think it's a bad idea” she said, and added that a big concern about halving the number of lanes is the potential to bottle up traffic.
       The marked speed through OCC is 25 mph. Kimley-Horn found that the average speed is 36 mph.
       Krager could offer the SIMD no immediate relief from speeders. She said she would look into possibilities with police enforcement, clearer signage and better traffic signal synchronization.
       She did speculate that once the Cimarron/I-25 interchange project is finished later this year, that will lure more of the fast-moving through traffic from the avenue back to Highway 24/Cimarron Street.
       One idea that SIMD members proposed earlier this summer - a permanent, interactive, digital sign at either end of Old Town telling people how fast they're going - Krager dismissed as ineffective and a maintenance burden.
       Another concern for Old Colorado City is that its brick sidewalks, built in the late 1970s, are suffering increasingly from deterioration and heaving.
Jacob Schmidt's saloon, then new, is pictured in 1904 in what's now the south side of Colorado Avenue's 2600 block. The high curbs in front of the building have since been corrected, but such is not the case in some places on the north side of the avenue - which is an issue for handicapped accessibility.
Courtesy of Old Colorado City Historical Society
Krager added that the city is also concerned about handicapped accessibility, especially in terms of relatively narrow sidewalk widths and even excessive curb heights in some places.
       She proposed a new, broader study, one that would last about two years and craft a transportation “master plan for Old Colorado City.” She estimated the cost for this effort at $200,000, but conceded that it could be lower, because some funds are still left from the Kimley-Horn study.
       One stipulation on a master-plan effort would be the city wanting funding help from Old Colorado City. Krager told the SIMD - which is supported by a special tax on Old Colorado City properties - that she thought she could find $100,000 in her own budget, so she'd like OCC groups to cover the balance. The SIMD committee took no vote on the request at the August meeting. Contacted two weeks later, Fabrizio said she was unaware of the master-plan idea.
       As for any work that a future study might suggest, Krager said some city funds could become available by 2020. Another possibility is the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA). Funding from that source could be available as early as 2025, she said, should RTA planners like the project idea and voters renew the tax.
       Regarding parking, "The data indicates that Old Colorado City may not have a deficit of parking spaces," the Avenue Assessment notes. Krager added a related fact - that parking meters have 70 percent occupancy (considered low). So if the Old Colorado City business people feel there's a shortage, the city would need to know where it is.
       The Avenue Assessment states that the study was initiated “at the request of business owners… to evaluate how the roadway and public infrastructure could better support the economic vitality of Old Colorado City.”
       According to the Assessment, the main Kimley-Horn goals going into the study were mobility (making sure to consider all types of transportation), accessibility (for all ages and “mobility levels”) and “placemaking” (by which a “cohesive community character” should be created between the business district and surrounding neighborhood).
       The study did not involve a public meeting - although the city and Kimley-Horn did host one lightly publicized gathering with merchants. There was also an online survey, open to anyone, that was posted for several weeks; furthermore, the Assessment document states, the consultants worked with “neighbors, merchants and property owners.”

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 9/6/17; Transportation: Major Roads)

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