South 21st widening planned ‘within a year’
City Traffic scraps raised-median concept after appeals from Gold Hill Mesa, nearby businesses
By this time next year, South 21st Street should be widened to four lanes for about half the distance between Lower Gold Camp Road and Broadway Street.
“We should be done within a year from Lower Gold Camp at least to Villa de Mesa,” Gold Hill Mesa developer Bob Willard said in an interview this week. His project is required to pay for the roughly half-mile Lower Gold Camp-to-Broadway widening as compensation for the traffic that will be added to the currently two- lane street as a result of his 210-acre residential/commercial project just east of 21st.
The four-lane plans have been hammered out in meetings between Gold Hill Mesa and Colorado Springs Traffic engineers over the past couple of years.
One key change, agreed to at a recent meeting, was the city's relenting on its original insistence that there be a 17-foot-wide raised median south of Broadway. Instead there will be a 12-foot painted median, according to Tim Roberts of City Traffic. However, he added, there will need to be a raised median north of Broadway; that design is being fine-tuned as part of the Highway 24 expansion planning process currently underway by the Colorado Department of Transporta-tion (CDOT) .
Willard, as well as some business owners along 21st, had opposed a raised median south of Broadway - Willard because of the extensive costs of moving dirt to build up the road's east side, and merchants because a median would make it harder for customers to get to their businesses.
Willard, who had talked to several merchants, said he found none in favor of a raised median, although some were “ambivalent.”
A recent letter from Patsy's Candies, which has operated on 21st Street since 1976, urged the city to give up on a raised median for safety reasons. “When our customers and those of all 21st Street businesses are forced to make u-turns to gain access to our businesses, this will put not only themselves but all traffic at risk of accidents,” the letter stated, in part.
The city had believed that a raised median would improve safety, by eliminating potentially perilous left turns into and out of businesses. However, Roberts said this week a painted median should work acceptably. He noted that the road has few accidents now, the two new lanes should handle the increased traffic, and vehicles accessing that part of 21st Street from Gold Hill should be essentially under control (approved plans show just two streets coming in from the development other than the stoplights at Broadway and Lower Gold Camp).
Another city argument for a raised median had been aesthetics - that without one the road would look ugly. Willard agrees that a raised median could have been pretty, but he pointed out that his project will include a greenway just east of 21st Street. He also pledged, “it's going to be a nice-looking road when we're done,” including a retaining wall that will be “more effective and aesthetic than the jersey barriers there now.” He will still have to move considerable dirt to widen his side of the street - there being no room on the west side because so many existing businesses are close to the roadway - but not as much as a raised median would have called for.
The project will include a reworked intersection at 21st and Lower Gold Camp. More than likely, it will keep its stoplight, although Willard is interested in changing it to a roundabout, which would have the advantage, for cars chugging up 21st from the north or south, of not having to stop on a hill.
According to city figures, 21st Street between Lower Gold Camp and Highway 24 carried an average of 22,800 vehicles per day in the year 2003. By 2025, when Gold Hill Mesa has been built out, estimates show 41,000 vehicles per day.
Westside Pioneer article