Commissions change stances

City, County Planning Commissions vote to eliminate Yampa extension option

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Both the City and County Planning Commissions altered their stances on the Yampa Street extension, a key element in the area plan update.

The two commissions, which previously had taken somewhat different views, agreed that the Steamboat Springs Area Plan should acknowledge that traffic congestion would be a problem, would not include wording for a Yampa Street extension and would make the review of other transportation options a high priority.

The Yampa Street extension, which could give a second entrance into Old Town from west of Steamboat, would connect Yampa and 13th streets and possibly would relieve congestion at the 13th Street bottleneck.

In a meeting with the City Council earlier this month, the City Planning Commission unanimously agreed to eliminate wording from the area plan that had the Yampa Street extension as an option.

The County Planning Commission last week voted 4-4, with half the votes supporting no extension and the other half supporting the need for a connector road.

After debating whether no t having an extension would make congestion west of Steamboat unbearable or would encourage more public transit use, the two planning commissions voted 8-4 to eliminate the option of a Yampa Street extension.

County Planning Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush questioned whether connecting 13th and Yampa streets really would solve any congestion problems. She said it could encourage more people to drive rather than taking public transit and only would make congestion worse.

"This might not solve the problem at all, and at some time, have negative impacts," Bush said.

The planning commissions received a memo Thursday night from the plan's traffic consultant, Felsburg, Holt & Ullevig. The memo stated the plan estimates 2,600 new residents and 2.5 million square feet of new office space for west of Steamboat.

Without any traffic improvements, the traffic generated from that growth could add 10 minutes to a trip between West Steamboat and downtown.

"Should the decision-makers determine that no improvements are acceptable through the bottleneck, the community should be prepared to face very long delays in the future when traveling between West Steamboat and downtown," the memo states.

City Planning Commissioner Randall Hannaway was among those in the transportation working group who helped make recommendations for the plan and said the group knew of the impacts when it advised taking out the Yampa Street extension.

"Lincoln Avenue is going to get ugly because there is just no other place for (drivers) to go," Hannaway said. " I know that, and I think it is the only way we are going to change (transportation behavior)."

The transportation working group looked at 14 alternatives in a 1998 Mobility and Circulation Plan that addressed capacity improvements. From those alternatives, the group picked two, the Yampa Street extension and Howelsen Parkway Extension. From those two, the group decided the least expensive and fastest alternative would be the Yampa Street extension.

County Planning Commissioner Fred Nicholas recommended the other 13 alternatives be reviewed again.

"I feel as though we need to put something in this plan that we recognize the problem and that we are going to look forward to do something about this problem," Nicholas said. "If we allow this plan to go forward without doing that, we are going to do a disservice to this community."

One of the major concerns with the extension was its potential impact on Bud Werner Memorial Library's plans for expansion. Last year, the library purchased land between 12th and 13th streets and Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street and designated that area for a new library building.

But members of the East Routt Library Board have said a road running through that site and a section of Little Toots Park, could have them look elsewhere for an expansion.

In a letter to the planning commissions, Board President Tom Hopp wrote that an extension would destroy part of the park, separate community members from the Yampa River, potentially pollute the river and Soda Creek and decrease the safety of pedestrians.

"The library board believes that an extension of Yampa (Street) is a decision that does not take into account the full cost of such a roadway to the community," the letter reads.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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