Photo by John F. Russell
Traffic flows along U.S. 40 in and out of downtown Steamboat Springs on Monday evening. A panel told the Steamboat Springs City Council on Monday to plan for long-term transportation needs, with a particular focus on mass transit.
Steamboat Springs A panel of experts told the Steamboat Springs City Council on Monday to plan aggressively for its long-term transportation needs, with a particular focus on mass transit solutions to reduce traffic congestion.
Monday's transportation panel was the second in a series of discussions the council will hold as it prepares to negotiate the annexation of Steamboat 700, the planned development west of city limits that proposes about 2,000 homes along with a commercial component and other features.
Dan Blankenship of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority told council that factors such as climate change, gas prices and growth have made mass transit a priority of planning strategies like never before.
"We're starting to get to that threshold where people who have traditionally avoided transit are considering using it," he said. "There are ways for people to get around that are much more efficient to the ways they are today."
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority operates buses from Rifle to Aspen, through Glenwood Springs. It had 4.6 million passengers in 2007, Blankenship said.
Bill Fox of Boulder-based Fox Higgins Transportation Group said there are two strategies Steamboat could use to reduce congestion. It could improve traffic flow by widening roads, building new ones and improving congested intersections; it could discourage automobile trips by refusing to add capacity and managing parking, allowing congestion to worsen; or some combination of both.
In Boulder, Fox said officials have stuck to the second approach.
"They will not widen roads to accommodate cars," Fox said. "You can let it get worse before it gets better."
When it comes to improving U.S. Highway 40 through Steamboat Springs, Colorado Department of Transportation Program Engineer David Eller said the state's current shortage in transportation funding means there isn't much hope for state help in the near future.
"We'll probably move more to a maintenance perspective," Eller said. "We're probably going to slow down on new projects. : Unfortunately, CDOT now probably won't be the lead on projects."
Eller said regional priorities in particular are threatened. U.S. 40 is ranked third in CDOT's Northwest Transportation Planning Region.
"State Highway 131 has been No. 1 in the TPR for several years and it's still not done," Eller said.
Despite that grim outlook, all three panelists praised Steamboat Springs for continuing to plan for the future through such efforts as its sidewalks master plan and studies looking at U.S. 40 access and capacity.
"Over time, if you work hard and you make the right connections : who knows what might happen," Blankenship said.