Are days numbered for stoplight at Bott and 21st?
Van Briggle ready to ‘go to the mat’ to keep it

       Colorado Springs Traffic Engineering is thinking about eliminating the stoplight at Bott Avenue and 21st Street and changing the intersection to one with no light and limited access.
       This prospect does not please Van Briggle Pottery, which is already being faced with the loss of its traditional left-turn access from 21st Street, plus state proposals for a freeway-style interchange at 21st and Highway 24. Mulling plans to redevelop the three-acre historic Midland Roundhouse property and fearing customer access problems, the business-owning Stevenson family sees the stoplight as something “we would go to the mat over,” Craig Stevenson said in a recent interview.
       Van Briggle is bounded by Highway 24 on the north, 21st Street on the east, Bott Avenue on the south and the Ghost Town property on the west, with 21st Street providing its only access. Van Briggle's owners might not do the actual redevelopment - they are continuing to seek a better showroom location - but worry about the site's marketability without a stoplight at Bott, according to Stevenson and their business representative, Ed Rudolph.
       Tim Roberts, Traffic Engineering senior transportation planner, had told the Westside Pioneer two years ago that the city planned to move the Bott light south to Broadway Street (which will become the main commercial access to the Gold Hill Mesa development); he reiterated this at the March meeting of the Skyway Homeowners' Association, pointing to traffic backups (and the likelihood of Gold Hill Mesa increasing them) due to Bott's proximity to Highway 24.
       The city position was clarified by Principal Traffic Engineer David Krauth in an interview this week. Although agreeing that “we need to make sure that intersection (Bott) can operate safely with all traffic to and from 24,” he emphasized that “there are zero imminent plans to remove it (the light).”
       The deciding factor, he said, would be a traffic study, which would be required of the property owners if they submit a redevelopment plan. Such a study would show any increases in traffic or accidents, “which removing the light or modifying the intersection would cure,” Krauth said.
       Under the tentative city plan, access would be controlled by a raised median, instead of a light, at the T-shaped Bott/21st intersection. The median would be shaped to allow a left turn from 21st onto Bott, but not from Bott to 21st.
       Another concern for Van Briggle is the proposed major Westside Highway 24 expansion. Although the building would be spared as a historic site, the owners are concerned about business visibility next to the major interchange proposed by the Colorado Depar-tment of Transpor-tation (CDOT). The good news is that the interchange would be north of the current crossing, meaning greater distance from Bott. “We could make Bott operate with or without a signal,” said Mary Jo Vobejda of CH2M HILL, CDOT's lead consultant in the expansion planning process. “It does not impact operation of Highway 24.”
       A new access possibility for Van Briggle (as well as its neighbor, Ghost Town) would be off Bott Avenue. But that won't solve the problem for departing shoppers if Bott has no stoplight, Rudolph pointed out. To get back on the highway northbound, with a limited-access intersection, they would have to go south on 21st to Broadway, where they would need to make a U-turn. “There would be this catty-wompus way of sending them up a road,” Rudolph commented. “The question is, if we get them in, how do we get them out? The city says they can find their way. Well, they can't.”
       He added that the same problem would apply for any businesses along Bott Avenue, which has a mix of commercial and residential west of 21st. The lack of a light at 21st Street “will kill the redevelopment of the properties along Bott,” Rudolph said.
       Van Briggle's own redevelopment plans are conceptual for now, but the vision suggests a specialty-type shopping area using as its theme the roundhouse's colorful past as the place where Midland Railway trains were housed from the 1880s to the 1940s. “It would be a wonderful addition to the Westside,” Rudolph said.
       A raised median that will definitely go in, although Krauth does not know how soon, is between the highway and Bott Avenue. The Stevensons had fought this for the past two years - questioning whether the city owned the right of way - because a median will prevent left turns for northbound vehicles into Van Briggle. While the legal boundaries were being researched, temporary yellow plastic sticks (called “delineators”) were put in place. These prevent southbound left turns from 21st into the Advance Auto parking lot but allow northbound lefts into Van Briggle.
       The cost of the median will be paid from money Advance Auto had escrowed for the purpose as part of its city plan approval, Krauth said.
       City Traffic Engineering had previously proposed an access-limiting raised median for safety reasons on 21st all the way from the highway to Lower Gold Camp Road, but opposition from several 21st Street business owners, as well as Gold Hill developer Bob Willard, persuaded Traffic to leave it full access.
       Because 21st is expected to get more traffic with Gold Hill's eventual 1,000 homes plus a commercial area, the city has required the development to pay for the widening of 21st from two to four through lanes from Lower Gold Camp to Broadway. The first part of that project, from Lower Gold Camp to Villa de Mesa Drive, will be built this summer, Willard said in a recent interview.

Westside Pioneer article