Access to be key issue at meeting on 8th/Hwy 24 shopping center expansion

       A neighborhood meeting on an expansion of the shopping center at Eighth Street and Highway 24 will be Thursday, Dec. 11.
       Representatives of the developer and City Planning are scheduled to be on hand for the meeting - with access issues emerging as the prime focus - beginning at 7 p.m. in the West Works Engineering Offices, 1023 W. Colorado Ave.
       The general proposal by the Shoppes at Bear Creek Plaza LLC is to construct a second commercial building, five gas pump islands and access from Seventh Street on the 2.4-acre property. The LLC has extensively renovated the existing building (which had originally been a Western Sizzlin' restaurant) in recent months, creating three retail units.
       In preliminary reviews, problems with access to the center have been raised by a nearby resident (Sean Chambers), the city, and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). One issue is the developer's proposal to extend Seventh Street into the center's parking lot so as to provide a second access. This raises pedestrian and motorist safety questions, according to comments from Chambers and the city.
       Chambers' letter to the city warns that “if Seventh Street is pushed through to the south adding a hundred- plus vehicle trips/day through our neighborhood, there will be a significant increase in accidents involving parked cars, bicyclists, pedestrians and kids.” He points to “the total lack of a turn lane from Colorado Avenue to Seventh, inadequate parking on both Seventh Street and in the 600 block of West Cucharras Street that often creates a traffic bottleneck, the lack of traffic striping and bike lanes on a section of West Cucharras that is regularly used as a truck route and a bicycle commuter route, complications of more traffic turning left from Cucharras down Eighth Street the wrong way, and pedestrian safety in a neighborhood where sidewalks are in disrepair and don't even exist in the 600 block of West Cucharras, where cars often line the street on both sides of the curb on both sides of the street from automotive repair/salvage businesses operating in that block.”
       A review for the city by contracted consultant Scott Barnhart defines the Seventh Street traffic as “20 AM peak-hour trips and 42 PM peak-hour trips using the Seventh Street access. This low amount of traffic technically works, but residents in the area will be sensitive to retail traffic using their neighborhood to access the commercial site.”
       Barnhart also asks the developer to study the intersection of Colorado Avenue and Seventh to see if there is enough room to stripe in a left-turn lane from the avenue.
       Currently, the only access to Shoppes is from Eighth or Limit streets, and CDOT is not happy with that. A written review from Valerie Sword, CDOT access manager, states that “the close distance between US24 and the site access to 8th Street is a concern to CDOT.” Plus, the Highway 24/Eighth Street intersection already has a grade of “F,” her review states, and with additional traffic from the commercial center, “operation conditions of this intersection would be much worse,”
       The city traffic review also weighs in on this access. “Either the right-in/right-out needs to be redesigned to meet current City Engineering standard or the median opening between 8th Street and Limit Street needs to be closed off,” the Barnhart document states.
       The Shoppes LLC also will have to contend with future CDOT plans for the highway. Although most of the right of way (ROW) needed for an Eighth-and-Highway- 24 interchange (tentatively planned in eight years, at the earliest) would be on the south side of the highway, “the proposed fueling pumps would fall within the proposed future US24 ROW,” Sword's review states. “Is it feasible to rearrange the site plan to accommodate the ROW needs (such as move the retail building further east)?”
       The developer has not yet responded to these criticisms. According to Heather Rose, the city planner assigned to the project, the LLC wants to wait until after the neighborhood meeting, in the hope that ideas emerge from the discussion. The government reviews so far, she conceded, have presented “more questions than answers.”
       A proposal from Chambers, who is also a board member of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), has offered one solution - “to tie in access to the proposed development from West Vermijo street and/or a right-in/right-out off the other Eighth street off-ramp from Highway 24 West. This would allowtraffic to exit to the south and go any of the four possible directions at Highway 24 and Eighth Street.”

Westside Pioneer article