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Traffic flow a likely issue when 30th Street reconstruction project begins in about 2 years

       The main reason that a Colorado Springs plan to widen 30th Street won a $7.1 million state grant was that it's a key roadway for emergency vehicles.

The planned redesign of Mesa Road and 30th Street includes a pedestrian stoplight on 30th to connect the trails (dark brown).
Colorado Springs Engineering graphic

       So how will such vehicles - not to mention the public at large - get through during the roughly 18 months required for the project between Fontanero Street and Mesa Road?
       District 1 City Council-member Don Knight asked this basic question June 14 at City Engineering's first open house on the recommended upgrades.
       The answer? “We haven't fleshed out those details,” responded Robin Allen, the city project manager. But she hopes a full closure won't be necessary. “We want to keep the traffic flowing,” she said.
       The widening won't add lanes. The 5 feet of new roadway on either side will carve out room for bicycles and for cars to pull over for emergency vehicles or to use as a breakdown lane.
       Some of that segment of 30th bypasses the Pleasant Valley subdivision, but most of it runs next to the scenic Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site and Garden of the Gods city park.

Cross-sections of the current 30th Street (24 feet wide) and the future 30th (37 feet.) The space would be gained by hillside cuts, stabilization and a retaining wall.
Colorado Springs Engineering graphic

       The advertised purpose of the meeting was to “provide an overview of the project, address questions and obtain public input on the recommended alternative.” Allen estimated that the design process would take another year, with work on the roadway probably starting in 2020.
       A major traffic-impacts challenge will be posed by the project's planned roundabout at 30th Street and Gateway Road. Both streets are busy. 30th is the only direct route west of I-25 between Colorado Avenue and northwest Colorado Springs, and Gateway is the main access into the Garden of the Gods, used annually by millions of visitors.
       Construction could involve flaggers, a temporary signal, building half the roundabout at a time or “maybe people could use other park entrances,” suggested Tim Roberts, the city traffic engineer who wrote the successful 30th Street grant request.
       Featuring numerous posters - each displaying project-related graphics and details - the open house was attended by 50-some people in the Holmes Middle School cafeteria. There was also a roughly hour-long presentation, in which Allen and project consultants brought out additional slides/posters.
       Project issues include the following:
  • The widening. The total added width will be 13 feet, the graphics show. The current road width is 24 feet, which is divided into one lane either way, 12 feet wide. The new plans call for each side to be striped for an 11-foot traffic lane, a 5-foot paved shoulder and a 2½-foot curb and gutter. (See graphic on this page.)
  • Slope stability. The 13 feet will be obtained by cutting into the hillside to the east. Hillside mitigation will be particularly necessary between the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center (at Gateway Road) and Mesa Road. The stabilization method will be soldier piles bored deep into the ground. Also, retaining walls, 10 to 15 feet high, will be needed alongside the roadway.
  • Roundabout at Gateway/30th. Based on research into the subject, engineers say that a roundabout will allow a continuous flow of traffic (including bicycles) and will be slower, safer and more efficient than the current intersection design, in which the only control is a stop sign for Gateway's T- intersection at 30th.
           A stoplight was considered, but it didn't meet what are called “warrants,” based on such concerns as accident numbers and delay issues, Roberts has previously pointed out. He also thinks a roundabout could be landscaped to fit in with the natural beauty of the adjacent Garden of the Gods.
           Not all the meeting attendees were convinced about the roundabout solution, with questions raised about pedestrian safety and visibility for drivers.
  • Intersections. Four in all will be upgraded in varying degrees for safety reasons (Gateway, Fontanero, Water Street and Mesa). No traffic signals are planned, except for a user-activated pedestrian crossing at Mesa Road that will connect the trails on either side of 30th; Mesa will also be realigned to intersect 30th at a 90-degree angle instead of the current merging layout which is prone to rear-end collisions.
  • Drainage. Under-ground storm drains will be installed in the project. Currently the runoff is above ground, which can lead to problems in storms.
  • Community values. Going back to 2016, project team members say they have held informal meetings with various groups/individuals (“stakeholders”) who have definable interests in the 30th Street corridor.
           The extrapolated values include a stakeholder wish for safety, functionality, a continued “rural feel,” preservation of natural beauty and a currently lacking “sense of arrival” as motorists approach the Garden on 30th.

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