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PPACG seeks comments from supporters of pedestrian/bicycle plan; downtown-to-Manitou is 1 of 10 priority corridors

A Google Earth rendering in the Nonmotorized Plan documentation shows a travel corridor through the Westside between the downtown and Manitou covering a swath wide enough to encompass Colorado Avenue, the Midland Trail and Highway 24 and (in places) areas north or south of them. The corridor is 1 of 10 in the region that have been prioritized as needing nonmotorized-travel improvements.
Courtesy of Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments
       Citizen comments supporting regional pedestrian/bicycle system upgrades are being sought by local government entities.
       A special website (walkbikeconnect.org) “allows people to place comments on a map in order to suggest improvements or highlight issues with the current network,” states a press release from the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG), the regional planning agency for governments in El Paso, Teller and Park counties.
       The PPACG request is part of an effort to update an element of the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) called the Nonmotorized Plan.
       The Westside is guaranteed to be part of that. A travel corridor between the downtown and Manitou Springs is 1 of 10 in the region that the NonMot Plan will focus on, based on a vote by the PPACG board at its October meeting.
       PPACG staff, working with appointed committees and staff of member governments, studied a total of 68 corridors in recent months, prioritized the 10 and recommended them to the board. They are the ones with the greatest need of “infrastructure improvements,” the release states.
For a few hours Aug. 21, international bicyclists had Colorado Avenue all to themselves during the USA Pro Challenge (as shown in this picture at 29th Street); however, on an everyday basis, cyclists must share the avenue's travel lanes with cars.
Westside Pioneer file photo
       The current RTP is titled the “2035 Moving Forward Regional Transportation Plan,” and its NonMot element is dated January 2008. The next RTP will have a 2040 date (to show that the plan is looking that far into the future).
       Having an updated RTP is necessary for the region to be eligible for federal funding, according to Craig Casper, PPACG's transportation director. The plan is also “critical” for securing other possible funding sources, which “include the state's Safe Routes to Schools Program and the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority,” Casper is quoted in the press release.
       “The goal of this planning effort is to make nonmotorized activities a more attractive transportation alternative by ensuring that the region's on- and off-street bike system, multi-modal trails, sidewalks, road crossings and other infrastructure are safe, connected, easy to use, and well-maintained,” the press release adds.
       The 2008 Nonmotorized Plan's Executive Summary starts with this sentence: “It is generally accepted that walking and bicycling, as opposed to driving a personal vehicle, promote physical health and lower stress, reduce harmful emissions, and save money and energy.”
       Detailed NonMot corridor proposals have not yet been brought forward, and any actual improvements will have to be implemented by the respective governments (for example, Colorado Springs, El Paso County and Manitou all have some jurisdiction in the downtown-to-Manitou corridor).
       Also not final at this point are precise definitions of the corridors themselves, although a Google Earth rendering in the plan documentation shows downtown-to-Manitou covering a swath wide enough to encompass Colorado Avenue, the Midland Trail and Highway 24 and (in places) areas north or south of them.
       Still, it's become evident from other actions that area officials would like to slow traffic on the avenue: Two-laning has been approved for the major upcoming project west of 31st Street, and the Old Colorado City Security & Maintenance District Committee (consisting of property/business owners) recently voted for it in its area.
       Also, a summary from a meeting of one of the appointed committees (the PPACG Regional Nonmotorized Transportation System Plan Stakeholder and Technical Task Force in September) includes the statement that “road dieting on Colorado Avenue would slow traffic and benefit business. However, there is political pressure to keep it to four lanes.”
       Concern about the implications was expressed at the October meeting by PPACG board member/county commissioner Sallie Clark. While voting in favor of the corridor choices, she made it clear that she would not support a plan calling for bike lanes on Colorado Avenue at the expense of on-street parking because, she said, some people who live along there have no place else to park. Also, she said, “I know the business district would like to slow down traffic there, but the other part of that is, if there's too much traffic-dieting and we just make way for bicycles without considering the cars and the parking, that's going to be an issue.”
       A draft of the Nonmotorized Plan “is expected to be released for public comment in January 2015,” the release states. “Community members will be invited to attend a series of public meetings in late January to learn about the recommendations and provide feedback.”
       But that's different from the current needs-related public-input request. The public comment period for the RTP and Nonmotorized Plan “has not begun and will not begin until early 2015,” Casper clarified.
       At the walkbikeconnect.org website, an explanatory statement suggests what kind of people should leave comments now and how they should do it. “One of the most important components of this Regional Nonmotorized Plan is obtaining input from community members who currently use the system or would like to in the future,” reads a statement next to an interactive map on the web page. Those people are asked to electronically place “pins” to mark locations they have concerns about and to add comments. “Your input is critical because you know the area best!” the web-page statement continues. “All of the comments on the Participate Map will be considered for the final plan and will be shared with local jurisdictions to support future implementation. Please share your insights on:
       “• Where there are gaps along the identified improvement routes such as difficult crossings, missing connections or unsafe areas?
       “• What specific infrastructure improvements do you recommend?”
       Comments of this type will be accepted through Feb. 13, according to the website.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 11/16/14, updated 11/17/14; Transportation: General)

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