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Consensus elusive in city's OCC traffic-needs study

       When Colorado Springs Transportation hired a consultant in 2016 to study Old Colorado City's business-related traffic issues, the hope was to get some answers.

The cover of the Colorado Avenue Assessment document.
Westside Pioneer scan; courtesy of Kimley-Horn and Colorado Springs Transportation

       As it turns out, the $90,000 study of Colorado Avenue between 21st and 31st streets - focusing particularly on OCC between 24th and 27th - has led to more questions.
       Before City Transportation Manager Kathleen Krager put the Kimley-Horn study on hold last summer (with not all the money spent), the consultant produced an eight-page document titled “Colorado Avenue Mobility, Parking & Economic Opportunity Assessment,” which confesses to uncertainty about what to do next.
       The document identifies “three potential solutions,” but elaborates that each “emphasizes a different focus area” regarding transportation issues, and “the city would like additional input to provide guidance on preferences and priorities.”
       As Krager summarized to a recent meeting of the Old Colorado City Special Improvement Maintenance District (SIMD) Advisory Committee, “we got to a point where we have more questions than we originally thought.”
       According to the Assessment, these are the solution-focus possibilities:
  • Traffic. This concept suggests keeping the current four lanes with parallel parking, but creating a median that is “landscaped or otherwise differentiated from travel lanes and can be effective in reducing travel speeds.”
  • Parking. A parking-focused solution would have two lanes (one each way), making room for diagonal parking along Colorado Avenue. This would result in more on-street parking. “Traffic operations are compromised, but only marginally,” the Avenue Assessment states.
  • Pedestrians. With this type of focus, traffic would also be reduced to two lanes, but retain the parallel parking and widen the sidewalks. This would “provide room for sidewalk activity,” the document states. The number of parking spaces would come from evening out the curbs along each block as part of the widening.
           An adjunct to the pedestrian topic is how to route bicycles. Krager had once directed that avenue bicycle lanes be included in any Old Colorado City traffic solution, but the Avenue Assessment states that “the study team received mixed messages” on that point. “Should cyclists be accommodated on Colorado Avenue or a parallel corridor?” Kimley-Horn asks.
           Adding to the aura of perplexity, members of the SIMD had questions for Krager. If there is a perceivable, long-time consensus in OCC, it's to slow traffic there. The SIMD members were dismayed to learn that none of the three identified solutions could happen anytime soon, and they wanted to know what could be done about speeding now.
           The Kimley-Horn study came about because of such concerns. The two-laning idea, with diagonal parking, dates back to 2007, when the Old Colorado City Asso-ciates (OCCA) business group board voted for it.
           However, in a separate, interview, OCCA President Julie Fabrizio said that currently there is “controversy” about two-laning among the OCCA board members. “Some think it's a bad idea” she said, and added that a big concern about halving the number of lanes is the potential to bottle up traffic.
           The marked speed through OCC is 25 mph. Kimley-Horn found that the average speed is 36 mph.
           Krager speculated that once the Cimarron/I-25 interchange project is finished later this year, that will lure more of the fast-moving through traffic from the avenue back to Highway 24/Cimarron Street.
           Another concern for Old Colorado City is that its brick sidewalks, built in the late 1970s, are suffering increasingly from deterioration and heaving.
           Also, Krager said the city is concerned about handicapped accessibility, especially in terms of relatively narrow sidewalk widths and even excessive curb heights in some places.
           She proposed a new, broader study, one that would last about two years and craft a transportation “master plan for Old Colorado City.” She estimated the cost for this effort at $200,000, but conceded that it could be lower, because some funds are still left from the Kimley-Horn study.
           One stipulation on a master-plan effort would be the city wanting funding help from Old Colorado City. Krager told the SIMD - which is supported by a special tax on Old Colorado City properties - that she thought she could find $100,000 in her own budget, so she'd like OCC groups to cover the balance.

    Westside Pioneer article