PPACG board backs Uintah bike-lane project

       Assuming a tight budget doesn't eliminate the line item, the City of Colorado Springs will pay $27,000 toward improving bicycle travel conditions along Uintah Street through the Westside.
       The money will provide the 20 percent “match” for an 80 percent federal grant of $110,000 on a project that will in different places make “sharrow” lanes by restriping existing pavement and create bike lanes by building road shoulders or widening Uintah slightly between Walnut and 30th Street.
       No construction timetable has been established, although the work is scheduled for next year on documents presented by the staff of the regional planning agency, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG).
       The project was the only one on the Westside out of 12 alternative-transportation projects that were approved by the PPACG board at its monthly meeting Oct. 8. The others also would get 80 percent federal grants under either the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality or Transportation Enhancement programs.
       The board, consisting of representatives from government entities within a three-county region, voted only for projects which had joint approval from PPACG staff and volunteer transportation committees.
       Two other Westside projects are still candidates for approval, pending further review by PPACG staff and volunteer transportation committees. These are proposals to add bicycle lanes along most of 30th Street between Fontmore Street and Garden of the Gods Road and to improve handicapped accessibility at bus stops on Mountain Metro's Route 14 including Walnut and Chestnut streets.
       There were 22 possible projects in all. The public also had a chance to comment, but its choices (disagreeing with staff and committees on two of their selections and picking three that those groups didn't) were not talked about during board discussion.
       According to Kristin Bennett, the city's bicycle planner, the Uintah project would not require any hillside-cutting to fit in lanes along Uintah. Such had been mentioned, by a PPACG staffer in a previous interview, as a possibility in places between Walnut and 19th Street. She said sufficient width exists on either side in most of that segment to build road shoulders, as needed, which would then double as bicycle lanes. The only place widening would be needed would be “a couple of feet” on the north side of Uintah Street between 19th and the Uintah Gardens entrance, Bennett said.
       Sharrow lanes, which were invented in California and are not yet part of Colorado law (they are expected to become so next year), will be striped between 20th and 30th street, where there isn't room for true bicycle lanes. These lanes will partially share the through traffic lanes and have an identifying arrow (hence, “sharrow”).
       Bennett said the city is aware of a separately planned, long-range, Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) project to install a sidewalk on the north side of Uintah between Cooper Street and Mesa Road. Pedestrians (and sometimes bikes) now follow a dirt path beside Uintah. The RTA funding for that sidewalk is not yet available, but “what we're doing with bike lanes would not preclude sidewalks at a later time,” Bennett said.
       She added that final design on the project still needs to be accomplished. The exact cost is not yet determined. The preliminary '09 city budget (which must be approved by City Council) shows a capital improvement line item for the project, listing the federal funding as $110,000, augmented by $27,800 from the city's general fund.

Westside Pioneer article