Grant request for 17th Street calming fails after BV use change

       Changing the old Buena Vista Elementary to a community center has had an unforeseen ripple effect - indefinite postponement of the long-discussed 17th Street traffic calming project.

Bump-outs and a center “island” helped narrow Holland Park Boulevard at the Sinton Trail crossing in a city traffic calming project last year. Insufficient funds have slowed other planned calming sites, but this one was affordable because, as a result of bikes using the trail, bikeway funds could be applied instead.
Westside Pioneer photo

       It's still among eight projects in the queue, according to Kristin Bennett of City Planning, but without the urgency of large numbers of children, a Safe Route to Schools grant that would have made the project affordable was denied this spring.
       Another Westside calming project that remains unscheduled is the one designated for Broadway Street. Because of issues with speeding and cut-through traffic, Broadway (six years ago) and 17th (the longest at nine years) are among the most senior projects in the city queue for such improvements.
       In 2007, David Krauth of City Traffic Engineering had prioritized the unbuilt calming projects (17th was first at the time and Broadway fourth), and announced a plan to just start working on them in order until the money ran out. At the time, the fund had $116,000 and was getting $60,000 a year through the city's Neighborhood Traffic Management Program (NTMP). But drainage engineering issues delayed 17th, and later that year, a money-strapped City Council eliminated the NTMP stipend from the budget. Then, at a 17th Street neighborhood meeting last summer, Krauth and Bennett were told by residents they didn't want a traffic circle that was a key part of the proposed work there.
       That was also when Krauth said he would apply for a federal Safe Routes to Schools grant to help cover 17th's tentatively estimated $100,000 cost. At the time, he said he was “95 percent” sure of getting it, but that was before the School District 11 Board of Education decided this spring to close Buena Vista at 17th and Bijou (BV's Montessori program will be at the former Washington Elementary site in the coming school year).
       The Safe Routes grant decisions were made this spring. “There were a couple of people on the [grant] selection committee that were aware it was closing,” Krauth said in a recent interview. “That's probably the reason we didn't get it.” However, he added, “even though the school is moving, there will be the same issues. The volume of folks [driving through there] is going to be the same.”
       In the grant, the city had asked for $212,000 for 17th Street. The difference between that and the $100,000 estimate (which still includes the traffic circle as well as street-narrowing bump-outs at three intersections, according to Bennett) is that the grant would have also covered city design costs, the higher (union) wages required by the grant and “missing sidewalk along 17th Street as well as the missing curb and gutter south of Armstrong.”
       Traffic calming represents a philosophy that street design can influence how people drive. Changes such as narrowed streets, corner bump-outs, traffic circles and sometimes speed humps have worked effectively that way in other parts of the community, according to city officials.
       One Westside street that has seen some calming work of late is Holland Park Boulevard in the Holland Park neighborhood. That was last year, when the broad street was narrowed with a concrete island at the Sinton Trail crossing in conjunction with improvements by other city agencies in that area. Bennett explained in an e-mail that the crossing work was “actually funded using some of the PPRTA [Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority] Bikeway Improvement capital funds I manage for the city. The city is utilizing a portion of those RTA funds to make one or two trail/street intersection safety improvements each year. So we opted to fund that portion of Holland Park's traffic calming plan with those funds since it functions both as a traffic calming feature for Holland Park Boulevard and a trail crossing safety improvement for the Sinton Trail.”
       She added that “the remaining elements” of Holland Park's calming project (bump-outs at Darby Street and Forest Hill Road) “have received final design approval, and staff will be bidding the work shortly.”
       All eight projects in the queue are currently being engineered by city staff. That preparatory effort is to be completed this summer, “and then we'll know how far the remaining funds for the NTMP can stretch,” Bennett said.

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