The long wait is over.
With little fanfare and even less elation, the results of the Woodland Park Traffic Circulation Study have been released.
The purpose of the study was to investigate potential traffic improvements that will help alleviate traffic congestion and other concerns in the City. The study focused on near term solutions that would be feasible under jurisdictional and budgetary constraints.
The recommendations developed by AECOM during the 12 month study may be considered a plan for the future, a plan to be implemented over time as conditions, funding, and public support warrant.
US 24 is the only east/west artery between Denver and Pueblo. It serves as a major commercial road for moving goods and people to and from Colorado Springs and points east, as well as the chief route for tourist and recreational traffic heading to and from the mountains. Unfortunately, it also serves as Woodland Park’s “Main Street.” Naturally, with the growing population of Woodland Park and Colorado Springs, traffic congestion, noise and safety are increasingly becoming an issue on the highway.
Using statistics from CDOT the study determined traffic volumes on US 24 were measured at 0.94, where values at 0.85 are considered congested. Estimated future congestion is expected to reach 1.0 by 2035 within City limits. Further analysis of traffic volume east and west of downtown indicated 25% of traffic volume downtown is generated by local residents, therefore the study focused mainly on alternate routes to reduce local traffic on US 24.
The goals of this study were:
• Identify issues
• List possible solutions
• Evaluate criteria linked to project goals
• Alternatives evaluation using criteria
• Refinement of options
The study goes on to describe the process used to come up with its recommendations and reviews the detailed alternatives that were made and presented to the public. There were 2 public involvement meetings and 2 stakeholder (business, government, and civic entities) involvement meetings.
Those meetings were designed to inform and develop a series of alternatives to address traffic and other issues. During these meetings the study took comments and recommendation of stakeholders and residents.
Among the concerns raised were:
• Safety and mobility of pedestrians and cyclists downtown
• High traffic volumes during tourist season
• Traffic signal timing
• Left turn issues with center median islands downtown
• Cut through traffic in neighborhoods
• Excessive speed
• Better access to subdivisions and businesses
At the second public meeting six alternatives were presented for public comment and consideration to address the issues raised.
• North business loop
• Rampart Range Rd/ Kelly’s Rd roundabout
• South business loop
• Center St. pedestrian crossing
• Pikes Peak Ave. extension
• US 24 bypass
Each of the alternative received spirited debate from the public and there was no solid consensus on any option, except the bypass which is not a viable option at this time.
AECOM Principle Transportation Planner Edward Hocker addressed the bypass option difficulties in detail. He told a disappointed audience that CDOT was not looking at the bypass option at all and it was completely out of the scope of this study because it is a State issue not in Woodland Park’s jurisdiction.
City Manager David Buttery also addressed the bypass option. When the bypass issue was first raised and considered in 1993 construction cost of the bypass would be between $50 and $60 million dollars. At today’s rates the cost are estimated to be around $106 million or higher. It would require even more difficult and expensive to obtain right of way purchases, and would require a completely new environmental and feasibility study at an estimated cost of $1 million. He did say the City continues to lobby the State for the bypass and will continue to do so.
Ultimately, due to short sighted thinking on behave of Woodland Park voters and politicians, in 1993 when the bypass was a feasible option, the chances of seeing a true bypass is unlikely for the foreseeable future.
Left with that reality, the study concludes that other, short term, alternatives that were presented at the community meetings should be pursued within the jurisdiction and budget of the City. One or a combination of the alternatives studied to decrease local traffic on US 24 would be the best option at this time.
AECOM listed their recommendations as follows:
• Keep all concepts on the table for future consideration and forward this report to City Council for consideration.
• Implement study concepts as conditions warrant
• Seek local, state and private funding for improvements as appropriate
• Begin with the least costly and least impactful (not an actual word but verbatim from study) projects.
• Continue to elevate discussion about a future bypass
• Coordinate with PPACG (Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments) and CDOT on all US 24 matters including street connections, signals, signage and future bypass
• All projects should include public outreach to help refine the concepts outlined in this plan and alleviate public concerns surfaced during the study. Develop support among the public through small groups in concert with decisions to proceed.
Detailed information on the alternative routes covered by the study can be found on the City of Woodland Park website @ http://www.city-woodlandpark.org/home/ and on the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments website @ http://www.ppacg.org/