Steamboat Springs A city official said Thursday that a shortage of bus drivers could impact not only this winter's transit service, but also long-term transportation planning in Steamboat Springs.
At a meeting of the downtown advocacy group Mainstreet Steamboat Springs to discuss concerns about local congestion, city transportation director George Krawzoff said increasing public transportation is not the only tonic for traffic.
"I don't think transit is a silver bullet, particularly because you can't hire drivers," Krawzoff said.
Earlier this week, the city announced that it likely would have to cut part of its winter bus service because of a shortage of drivers.
Steve Elkins, creator of a bypass proposal for U.S. Highway 40, added that personal habits also stand in the way of transit use.
"You just cannot get people out of their cars," Elkins said.
Krawzoff said intelligent development planning, such as building a grocery store west of downtown Steamboat to eliminate unnecessary cross-town driving, is one of several methods to alleviate Steamboat's growing traffic woes.
Mainstreet heard two similar bypass proposals for U.S. 40 from Elkins and Steamboat resident John Fielding.
Fielding's proposal, called the Emerald Mountain bypass, would take drivers over Howelsen Hill and reconnect with U.S. 40 at Pine Grove Road.
"We're already seeing the quality of life in our town degraded," said Fielding, a design consultant. "There's going to be much more traffic in 10 years, in 15 years. It would be unthinkable for there not to be some other way to take a trip through town."
His plan emphasizes mitigating the visual impact of the bypass with landscaping, but would also require alterations to the Nordic facilities on Howelsen Hill, a sticking point for many Mainstreet members.
Elkins' proposal, which he terms a "reliever road," takes a similar route except it rejoins the highway at Mount Werner Road.
In response to concerns that a bypass might hurt businesses, Elkins, a Prudential realtor and former engineer for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., said he thinks of his plan as more of an alternate route for cross-town trips by locals when they have no need to go downtown.
A major shortcoming of either of the routes is that they would put the bypass directly through private property under conservation easements, said Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush, who also is vice chairwoman of the Colorado Department of Transportation's Northwest Transportation Planning Region.
Despite obstacles, other mountain resort communities have had success in decreasing local vehicle traffic and with highway bypasses.
Aspen has been successful in keeping vehicle traffic constant since 1993, Krawzoff said. However, he said this success required comprehensive policy solutions including controlling downtown parking capacity, free mass transit, regional transportation, high occupancy vehicle lanes and signal preempts for buses.
Breckenridge's bypass is considered very successful, but it differs from Steamboat in that the road it uses was pre-existing and only required changes to a few intersections, Mitsch Bush said.
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