by Rick Langenberg:
Nope, Woodland Park is not bracing itself for a possible $60 million-plus highway bypass that reroutes Hwy. 24 traffic around the downtown.
That former idea died a decade or more ago due to funding limitations and the impracticality of devising a realistic alternative for a highway thoroughfare that worked financially and wouldn’t create a local business revolt. A highway bypass isn’t even listed anymore on the region’s 30-year highway improvement plans.
But town leaders want to explore the possibility of traffic alternatives for the main part of the downtown to enhance a growing desire for a more pedestrian-friendly community. More importantly, some leaders have spoken about the need to reroute heavy truck traffic away from the downtown core. Another idea mulled is to set up a system similar to downtown Breckenridge, which uses a mini-side bypass for skiers, visitors and people wanting to continue traveling on Hwy. 9 while still keeping the main street open for through traffic. In addition, plans for lowering the speed limit have been tossed around, along with ways to make public parking easier.
But to date, much talk of doing something about the downtown traffic situation has been just that: talk. Meanwhile, many business owners and motorists complain about a no-win, unpleasant thoroughfare that doesn’t benefit anyone.
As a result, the Woodland Park City Council recently approved a new contract with the Colorado Department of Transportation, authorizing the allotment of $80,000 for a consultant study to evaluate traffic alternatives for the city. Out of this price tag, the city will foot the bill for $13,768. “We want to put it in the hands of the experts,” said Woodland Park City Manager David Buttery, in describing the new study. Public Works Director Bill Alspach agreed and noted that the forthcoming study will give the city “more influence with CDOT” and provide the town with better direction for to resolving their downtown Hwy. 24 traffic quagmire. “It can put us on a path,” added the public works chief.
However, both Alspach and Buttery weren’t specific about the study details, and what alternatives may be explored.
The idea to rectify the Hwy. 24 traffic picture in Woodland for pedestrian safety and for the benefit of local businesses has been a focal point of conversations regarding the Main Street project and for forming a Creative Arts district.
And during a recent meeting, Councilman Gary Brovetto continued to press city officials for details. “It is a big issue in this town,” said Brovetto. “This town is not very pedestrian-friendly.” In an earlier council meeting, Brovetto described a huge problem with dust and heavy trucks, creating a bad experience for visitors in the downtown core. He also argued that town leaders aren’t taking an aggressive enough attitude in dealing with CDOT. Brovetto has cited the Hwy. 24 traffic scenario as a key issue that could determine the town’s future.
City officials have conceded that the town does have a problem with traffic moving too fast through the main core of town, and the need for a possible alternative route. But until an official study is completed by CDOT, officials contend their opinions don’t mean too much. The downtown traffic study should be completed next year.