Turnaround may ease traffic

City discusses congestion in Ski Time Square

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— Business and condo owners affected by the congested and sometimes confusing traffic in Ski Time Square got a look at possible changes that might affect them.

Public Works Manager Jim Weber presented four options for a mid-block turnaround that would allow city buses to turn around and pick up and drop off passengers before they reach the area in front of the Tugboat restaurant.

One of the plans favored by many business people at Monday's public meeting had a circle, or roundabout, that allowed both private cars and the buses to turn around. This would alleviate congestion for many businesses located on Ski Town Square Drive. In the same plan, both the city buses and shuttle buses had their own special lanes, where they could pull over and let people on and off without interfering with traffic flow.

"The thought is with all of the real estate business and restaurants and congestion, it is very dangerous for buses to move all the way down through and come back," Weber said.

"This (mid-block turnaround) will provide buses with a safe area to turn around."

Currently buses have to go all the way to the end of Ski Time Square Drive and turn around on what is privately owned land. During the winter season, it's not unusual to have buses coming in and out every 10 minutes.

"Whether the buses can continue to go up there is up for discussion but even if we can, should we do it?" asked George Krawzoff, city transit superintendent.

Krawzoff also said the big 40-foot city buses run into trouble as parked cars pull out into the limited road space in Ski Time Square.

"It ends up taking our buses a lot more time to come down here and leave than it should," Krawzoff said. For example, the transit official said the time lost could mean the difference between having three buses on a route as opposed to a costlier four buses.

In all the plans, some businesses along Ski Time Square may have to adjust their frontages, including moving or changing curbs.

Some of the business owners weren't completely satisfied with the mid-block turnaround, saying it didn't do enough to solve traffic congestion.

Saul Ginsburg, owner of the Sugar Run shop, suggested limiting who could drive through Ski Time Square for example, allowing only condo shuttles or those with special permits.

The suggestion didn't sit well with the public works manager.

"My response to that is to vacate the road," Weber said.

"If you're limiting who can drive down the street, it's hard to say it's a public street."

Other business owners saw the mid-block turnaround as better than nothing.

"Don't you see the buses being out of there as beneficial?" asked shop owner Eric Esswein.

Esswein's Steamboat Trading Co. is located right across from what would be the roundabout where the buses and cars could turn around.

Another concern for those working in the area was what would happen to pedestrian traffic. Weber pointed to areas in all four plans where pedestrians were suppose to cross, but both the audience and Weber eventually agreed that pedestrians pretty much walked where and when they wanted with little regard for rules.

Still, one business owner objected to some of the landscaping that might induce pedestrians to walk in the road so they could "see" what's on the other side.

The Public Works Department plans another public meeting later this month before taking the four mid-block turnaround plans to Planning Commission and the City Council.

No time frame or funding has been put aside for the project, which is expected to cost about a half-million dollars. In the end, it will be up to the City Council to approve a final plan.

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