Traffic study may lead to changes near Grand

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— Those people balancing skis deftly on their shoulders, blocky ski boots over their arms and small children at their feet searching for the safest way across Mount Werner Circle may have been unwitting participants in a test of pedestrian and vehicle mobility this winter.

After compiling more than 100 pages of data and video on the movement of cars and people in the Mount Werner Circle area near the Steamboat Grand, a consultant hired by the city believes it may be time to make some changes.

City Council will review a study tonight by PBS&J consultants that could result in the transformation of Mount Werner Circle from a four-lane road into a two-lane road, among other potential changes to the area, Public Works Director Jim Weber said.

The test was commissioned in conjunction with the opening of the Steamboat Grand and the completion of the city's Mountain Town Sub-Area Plan.

The test results and the recommendations made by the city's consultant will be presented to council in an hour-long work session.

The test involved closing off one lane of traffic on each side of the circle and tracking pedestrian movement around the entrances to the Grand near Burgess Creek Road and Ski Time Square access routes. Video cameras were used to survey pedestrian and vehicle movement during the high volume weekends of Presidents Day weekend, Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend and New Year's weekend. Consultants also watched various intersections to determine the impacts of the lane closures.

The city has struggled with members of the Mountain Business Association, who were worried the city had an agenda for the circle that could jeopardize their businesses, in creating the terms of the test. The review board that met to discuss how the test was going was made up of members of the MBA in addition to four city officials and the consultants. When problems arose during the testing, the group met to "tweak" the test so that it would remain fair, Weber said.

The management of the Grand, which is owned by the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. after consulting with the city installed a crossing guard at the south entrance of the hotel that leads to the ski area. The Grand will have to pay for a portion of the modifications made to the area around the hotel in accordance with its development permit. Until it does so, the Grand will not get a permanent certificate of occupancy.

The results of the test may also be used to define the future of the Gondola Transit Center, which may not be large enough to accommodate the current level of traffic that flows into it, Weber said.

Weber said he expects council to give city staff direction to look into what modifications may be made.

"Right now we have no idea what's going to be built up there," Weber said.

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