Court committee leans west

Proposal calls for closing off a portion of Sixth Street

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An advisory committee to Routt County commissioners suggested Wednesday that building a desperately needed judicial complex might mean closing off part of Sixth Street.

The Judicial Facility Committee told Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger and the building's designer, Russ Sedmak, a site west of the present courthouse site is the best spot to propose to voters in November 2002.

That site is where the United Way is located and where the Visiting Nurse Association was recently housed.

"If we go with the east site, we are really locked in," committee member Frank Bradley said. "The western site gives us lateral movement."

The eastern site would put the new justice center where the parking lot of the courthouse is now.

If a portion of Sixth Street would be permanently blocked off, it would provide room

for expansion.

Committee members said the portion of Sixth Street between the Routt County Courthouse Annex building and the proposed new building would be landscaped. However, leaving the street open for some period of time is not being ruled out until designers solve some of the access issues this could create.

"I think for Steamboat Springs and the community, closing Sixth Street is the best thing. It gives more green space to the area," committee member and former Routt County Commissioner Ben Beall said.

Russ Sedmak, vice president of HLM Design, which was contracted by the county to draw up the proposal, said leaving Sixth Street open still "has a lot of merit."

That option solves the inadequate parking for the disabled that challenges the western site plan, he said.

But committee members agreed that if the street is going to be shut down, if at all possible it should be from the get-go.

It's still not clear if the committee wants to build a parking structure where the existing parking lot of the courthouse is in addition to the justice center.

But the members were leaning toward not proposing the structure after listening to the findings of a preliminary traffic study.

Bill Fox, a traffic engineer for Transplan Associates Inc., who presented the study, showed that the existing parking around the courthouse is sufficient for the number of people parking there. Fox said he didn't expect the need for parking to increase dramatically if a new justice center was built.

However, he did point out how turning onto Lincoln Avenue from Sixth Street was a potentially dangerous situation, which most motorists avoid, according to his report.

If the justice center was built at the western site and Sixth Street was closed, it could encourage more people to park on Sixth Street, increasing the amount of motorists turning onto Lincoln Avenue.

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