Residents to learn details of major enhancements
It’s round two in the ongoing debate over major traffic improvements and enhancements in the Woodland Park area.
And if this forum rivals the earlier one in March, local residents better get there early to get a seat. Officials are encouraging citizens to bring their opinions and ideas.
On Sept. 22, city officials and a team of consultants, will present a list of detailed alternative solutions to grapple with the traffic situation throughout Woodland Park, further complicated by the commercial growth of the area and a clogged main highway system. Traffic problems also are prevalent around the Woodland Park High School. Plus, with this area emerging as a possible site for a new aquatic center, this section of town could bustle with a considerable increase in traffic.
However, residents can be assured that they won’t hear the words “highway bypass,” as this idea, a pursuit actively considered in the early 1990s, is off the table. With the current transportation funding situation, Woodland Park probably wouldn’t be able to get a bypass around the downtown within the next 50 years, even if a plan moved forward today. The traffic circulation study, part of an $80,000 grant, will be held at the Ute Pass Cultural Center, starting at 6 p.m.
This follows several meetings of a stakeholder group, consisting of community and business leaders and citizens. An earlier kick-off meeting on March 18 attracted a huge crowd of more than 100 people. The study is expected to be completed in October.
But that could merely serve as the starting point for an effort to secure grants and funding for major improvement projects to meet the city’s transportation needs. These future enhancements, though, won’t include a major bypass around the downtown. .
Ultimately, officials want to come up with a better traffic and road network system to deal with current and future demands. For example, traffic on Hwy. 24 on Friday evenings in the summer virtually screeches to a standstill. Motorists also struggle to make left-hand turns from the main highway.
And some civic leaders want more focus into making the downtown core into a pedestrian-friendly area, instead of a traffic hazard and a mecca for big trucks.
“We greatly appreciate the public perspective,” said Bill Alspach, Director of Public Works and City Engineer. “A general understanding of citizen preferences and how they would prioritize various transportation circulation options will help us as we pursue future funding opportunities.”
Another concern deals with the impact of current and future projects, such as Charis Bible College, Woodland Station, the Pikes Peak Regional Hospital, Trail Ridge Apartments and new housing projects and developments to deal with an aging population.
According to statistics, over 27,000 average annual daily trips were made through downtown Woodland Park on Hwy. 24 in 2013. Woodland Park is expected to grow from its current population of about 7,200 to around 12,600. As a result, traffic delays, difficulty making turns from the highway, safety concerns, noise, pollution, and difficulties for pedestrians are predicted to get worse.
The new study, though, is focusing on the entire city and not just the downtown area.
However, the big hurdle for planners is the lack of definable spots for alternative routes. In the earlier meeting in March, a path somewhere on the south side of downtown was favored. Suggestions included Old Crystola Road, West Street, Chester Street, or Columbine Street. Several groups suggested round-abouts to keep speeders in check.
Finally, to improve business access downtown, many people favored more parking, with low relief parking garages at Woodland Station and behind city hall. Other ideas cited involved the development of pedestrian bridge or tunnel, better signage, and better timing of the traffic signals. The communities of Breckenridge and Manitou Springs were considered examples of successfully redirecting traffic while maintaining a vibrant downtown.
Some of these proposals will be presented in more detail at the Sept. 22 meeting. According to WP Planning Planning Director, the consultants should unveil a list of definite alternatives, which will be prioritized.
Another focus of the study is to increase public education. For example, stakeholder group discussions have noted that as much as 60 percent of the traffic on Hwy. 24 is generated by local residents and local commuters.
If some of these folks took alternative routes at certain times, then the situation could be alleviated, according to some stakeholder representatives. But this may trigger opposition from neighboring residents.
The recommendations resulting from the study are expected sometime in October 2015.
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