Pedestrian safety concerns mounting in Woodland Park

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By Rick Langenberg

With the future build-out of the Woodland Station, capped by a new aquatic center, will downtown Woodland lose its pedestrian focus?

And what are the next steps to handle future traffic flows in Woodland Park and should the town consider alternate routes? What about adding new traffic lights, pedestrian overpasses or underground tunnels?

These are some of the questions that may be addressed during a transportation forum, slated for March 18 at the Ute Pass Cultural Center from 6 to 8 p.m. Woodland Park Planning Director Sally Riley has announced a forthcoming traffic circulation study to develop a short and long-range action plan for the town’s transportation future (see related story).

“The traffic circulation study is a next step forward from improvements made over the past 20 years,” said Riley, in a press release. “It will focus directly on a prioritized list of workable alternatives for the city to undertake as funding options become available.”

However, time may not be on the city’s side.

During the city council’s public comment session at a recent meeting, resident Steve Jeroslow, who also serves on the Woodland Aquatic Project Board, told the elected leaders that the time to develop a plan to ensure pedestrian safety is now.

“We are going to have a substantial increase in traffic,” said Jeroslow, in describing impacts from the developing Woodland Station project, where a new aquatic center will be located, along with a slew of new businesses. He anticipates this 10-acre development area, at the old Saddle Club and Bergstrom Arena locale, reaching a build-out stage within 10 years. “That’s a good thing,” said the resident, who has played a key role in organizing public support for the aquatic center project.

But he cited major concerns with achieving a safe way to get pedestrian traffic from the downtown to Woodland Station. “We want to make the pedestrian crossing safe,” said Jeroslow.

He especially raised a red flag regarding the intersection of Hwy. 24 and Center Street.

The resident, who also is involved with the Main Street effort, said some future plans could include doing an underground pedestrian tunnel, considering a pedestrian bridge over the highway, and having another traffic light and better access between the downtown and Woodland Station.

City officials said some temporary improvements would be made at the Hwy. 24 and Center Street intersection to ensure pedestrian safety. Eventually, both City Manager David Buttery and Public Works Director Bill Alspach expressed confidence that another traffic light would be added there, but that this process would require a traffic study by state authorities.

Aqua Center moving ahead

In other project updates, Buttery assured the council and public recently that plans are moving ahead for the aquatic center project, approved by the voters last November. He expects the next major step in the process will deal with the public presentation of final design and architecture plans for the project.

Moreover, he stressed that that the pro-facility vote in November has cleared the way for the construction of an aquatic center, with no strings attached. He said a fund-raising campaign is underway to add additional amenities for the facility and to lower the city’ debt, but the outcome of this effort won’t impact the construction of the project. “Voters gave us the okay to go into debt for $10.1 million,” said Buttery. “We are going to build a swimming pool. We have the money to build the aquatic center.”

He cited future fund-raising as a good way to add extra amenities and to possibly lower the city’s annual payments.