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2-laning on radar in $90K study of Colorado Avenue from 21st to 31st streets

       Colorado Springs officials are hopeful that a $90,000 study will tell them what they should do with Colorado Avenue between 21st and 31st streets.
       Using Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) funds, the Kimley-Horn traffic engineering company has been hired for the study. It is expected to last about half a year and involve a “robust” public outreach element, according to
Ted Ritschard of the Kimley-Horn company (standing) answers a question from Vanessa Garman (far left) of the Michael Garman Gallery during the November meeting of the Old Colorado City Special Improvement Maintenance District's advisory committee. Seated to Ritschard's right is Tim Roberts of City Traffic Engineering, and to his right is Kathy Read, an Old Colorado City business/property owner and advisory committee member.
Westside Pioneer photo
Tim Roberts of City Traffic Engineering.
       The study scope will include a “look at the feasibility” of going from four to two lanes from 21st to 31st, he said at the November meeting of the Old Colorado City Special Improvement Maintenance District (SIMD).
       The lane-reduction possibility was confirmed in a follow-up communication with City Transportation Manager Kathleen Krager, who said she had authorized the study. She noted the influence of the Westside Avenue Action Plan (WAAP) project west of 31st Street, which is designed for two lanes (one each way), along with the SIMD advisory committee's pursuit in recent years of two-laning through Old Colorado City.
       “With doing a different cross-section west of 31st and in OCC, I thought it reasonable to study the area in between to see how the transitions would be best addressed,” Krager said in an e-mail. “I am open to the results of the traffic study, which could be lane reductions. Whatever we decide will be taken to the neighborhood and the general public for guidance.”
       Not mentioned, but an undeniable influence is Manitou Springs, which is two-laning Manitou Avenue all the way from its downtown to the starting point of the WAAP project (300 feet east of the town's Highway 24 interchange).
       The Kimley-Horn study will also consider aspects of the public infrastructure between 21st and 31st (a distance of just over one mile), including curbs, sidewalks, parking, “walkability” and whether to put in a a center lane and/or bike lanes, according to meeting comments by Roberts and Ted Ritschard of Kimley-Horn.
       “It's not just a traffic study, but how to make the overall corridor work,” Ritschard summarized, using the word “holistic.”
       Over two years ago, the SIMD hired a consultant, local architect John Olson, who drew up a concept plan showing a two-lane configuration between 24th and 27th streets,
The current configuration of four-lane Colorado Avenue is seen looking west from 21st Street.
Westside Pioneer photo
with mostly diagonal parking (allowing more spaces) and bike lanes. This was in response to requests from several OCC merchants, who believe that the travel constriction would slow traffic and thus help business.
       Olson will continue to be employed in the new study, as part of the Kimley-Horn team, Ritschard said. Kimley-Horn is a national company, started in 1967, with an office in Colorado Springs, its website shows.
       The SIMD committee, consisting of property owners in Old Colorado City, advises the city on public improvements there, in cooperation with a City Parks administrator in charge of special districts. SIMD funding comes from a special tax of OCC properties.
       A previous Kimley-Horn study, done for the city in 2015 and priced at $12,000, focused on OCC and was limited to avenue traffic only. The study reached the basic conclusion that two-laning would work there, according to Krager, but Welling Clark, president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors residential group, has since questioned whether all impacts had been considered.
       These included traffic/parking interactions with bicycles, signal timing, traffic back-ups, accident blockages and the effect of some vehicles taking other routes (such as onto Highway 24 or neighborhood streets).
       Asked about Clark's questions for the new study, Ritschard replied, “I would like to provide answers but am afraid we would be way out in front of the process (leaning way over our
A snowy day in February 2015 shows Colbrunn Court in a south-looking view, with Colorado Avenue in the background. Bancroft Park is to the left. The one-block street is one-way northbound. A proposal to close it to motorized traffic - all or in part - is meeting with opposition from the Garman Gallery (large brick building at the right) because of the need for delivery and customer access.
Westside Pioneer file photo
skis!).” However, he pledged that research into Clark's and other people's questions would be part of the study process.
       Here are questions that came up at the SIMD meeting:
       - What will happen to Colbrunn Court in any Colorado Avenue corridor changes. There have been informal discussions about closing all or part of the one-block street to traffic (between Pikes Peak and Colorado avenues as part of a pedestrian-friendly concept for Bancroft Park), but the owners of the Garman's gallery/store - located at Colorado and Colbrunn - are opposed to this for access reasons and say they were only recently contacted about the idea.
       - Bike lanes vs. a center lane through Old Colorado City. Olson's original SIMD two-laning concept plan had included a center lane, but when Krager indicated several months ago she wanted bike lanes, the center lane was removed for space reasons. However, at the November SIMD meeting, comments from a few merchants/property owners suggested a center lane is a must for commercial loading and unloading in a two-lane scenario.
       - Whether the eventual corridor project could include sidewalk improvements in OCC. This relates to the situation in which the brick sidewalks - installed by the city nearly 40 years ago - are heaving in places. As discussed at previous SIMD meetings, the fix appears to be deeper than just putting in new bricks, and district tax revenues are insufficient.
       One likely outcome of the new Kimley-Horn study is a considerable delay in the envisioned OCC lane reduction. As a historical note, the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) business group had voted for the concept in 2007, and the city transportation manager at that time told the SIMD committee two years later that the city supported the idea. In August 2015, Krager said the city was ready to at least experiment with a two-laning/diagonal parking configuration in Old Colorado City and (with Olson's plan as a guide) could even stripe the roadway as needed this year. However, that did not occur, and Roberts said at the recent SIMD meeting that any work recommended by the new study would not likely be accomplished for another two to three years.
       He also said that the city wants to be especially careful with public outreach - trying to reach as many people as possible - on road changes going forward. A recent factor in this regard, he said, is the wave of public criticism following the city's lane reduction including bike lanes along Research Parkway in the Briargate area.
       “We did public outreach there, but there were still people who said they didn't know about it,” Roberts recalled. He added that Old Colorado City is an even more prominent part of the city, so “we have to be sure” before making any significant avenue changes.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 11/21/16; Transportation: Major Roads)

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