Pedestrians make their way across Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat Springs on Friday afternoon.

Photo by Brian Ray

Pedestrians make their way across Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat Springs on Friday afternoon.

Traffic concerns consultants

Engineering firm focuses on congestion, transportation

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— Editor's note: This story has been updated from its original version. PBS&J was not involved in the MainStreet Steamboat Springs study.

MainStreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett summed it up: "It's the question on everybody's lips: What can be done about the traffic?"

Her group, which aims to promote and enhance downtown Steamboat Springs, brought in a resource team to approach downtown Steamboat Springs with an eye toward how MainStreet should move forward with its plans - focusing on traffic and transportation issues.

The team's report lends credence to common complaints about traffic flow and drivers' attitudes, noting that traffic is "perceived as being too aggressive" and that "it's difficult to cross the street." MainStreet gave copies of the report to the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday.

Key concerns swirl around Steamboat's east-west thoroughfare: U.S. Highway 40.

Crowds flooded sidewalks along that road's downtown stretch, Lincoln Avenue, to enjoy the Friday afternoon sunshine and sidewalk sales.

"The highway is the Achilles heel of the town," resident Bob Vanderbeek said. "I think we know that."

Vanderbeek, who had to lean in to hear and be heard over the traffic din, said he thought the problem was traffic passing through rather than local vehicles. He offered a theory on when things might get better.

"My ultimate cynicism is that when gas is up to five or six bucks, it'll all slow down," he said.

Barnett expressed her own frustration with drivers' get-there-now attitudes, providing an anecdote: "I watched a guy crossing the street; I know he has (multiple sclerosis). He was going across at Seventh Street. He has the elbow crutches. He got halfway across the street, the light changed and people would not let him get across the street. : It's common courtesy."

In its report, the resource team recommends adding crosswalk lights in all directions at all intersections with lights and suggests they are "timed to allow the pedestrians to move at a comfortable rate of 3 feet per second to cross the street." The study stated that only crosswalks in the downtown center approach that timing.

The team includes Jane Jenkins, executive director of the Downtown Boulder Business Improvement District; Scott Day, an architecture and design expert with Urban Design Specialists; John Miller, an economic restructuring expert with Plan B Development; Stephanie Redman, an organizational expert with TBD Consulting; and Katherine Correll, the report coordinator and executive director of the Colorado Community Revitalization Association.

Steamboat has been working on a streetscape redesign that would aim to address some of the concerns for pedestrians, but it has been "sort of put on hold," Barnett said, while the city examines the needs of downtown.

Logistics

The city's Public Works Department has commissioned a traffic study to look at the flow on Lincoln Avenue from Third to 13th streets, Public Works Director Philo Shelton said. He expects the results late next month.

Because U.S. 40 is a federal road, anything the city does must follow federal guidelines, Shelton said.

The Colorado Department of Transportation also has weighed in. For example, the MainStreet team recommended the city continue to pursue an additional traffic light at 11th Street and Lincoln, but CDOT has said the city should remove the light at Eighth Street if it adds one at 11th.

"We need to find out what we can do and what we can't do, or how much we can push," Barnett said. "It may be their road, but it is our town. There has to be some kind of compromise as far as getting people through town."

Shelton said CDOT has looked at traffic flow and light timing. Adding a signal at 11th could hinder traffic progress unless the light at Eighth is dropped, he said. There are signals on Lincoln downtown at Third, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth streets, he said, as well as one at 13th.

Shelton explained how traffic progression works: "Do you ever get stuck at a light and you're maybe the eighth car? When the light turns green, it takes a little time for everyone to accelerate. If you have (a signal) at every block, the first car is hitting the eighth car stopped in the next block. That's why having some space helps."

And then there's money. CDOT will replace the pavement on Lincoln Avenue from Third to 13th and will redo some ramps, Shelton said. The city has some money to use for the downtown area.

"We're always looking for funding for transportation projects. : We don't have enough to do the whole downtown, by any means," he said. "It's a pretty large project. There's always issues with getting enough funding - it's pretty much a statewide issue."

Adding a bypass also has been suggested. The MainStreet resource team said this: A bypass, in addition to being costly, would "result in more sprawl : and would take 10 years to construct."

What can be done now

Residents and visitors can help by leaving their cars behind, Shelton said.

"One thing I'd advocate is occasionally use transit, and if you can't get to your destination by transit, think about carpooling or using other options," he said. "A lot of people think you have to do it every day, but if you do it only one day a week, you're cutting your trips by 20 percent. "

From Barnett's perspective, improving traffic is about personal responsibility.

"I think it would be pretty awesome if we could get people to even go the speed limit instead of going over it or going through red lights or yellow lights," she said. "I think that might be a campaign we'll get on is friendly driving - getting people to obey the rules."

Comments

summerbird 6 years, 1 month ago

Hubiem:

Learn to turn right and go around the block. My plan allowed left turns onto Lincoln, just no left turns off of Lincoln onto side streets.

Oh another thing: rethink the forest of stop signs on Oak.

There would be no left turn on 3rd.

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bloggyblog 6 years, 1 month ago

blog would like to applaud tracy barnett for attempting to tackle this pressing issue. however blog dissagree's that the problem doesn't stem from local vehicles. the problem is caused almost entirely by local's. the truth is the traffic problem exists year round. blog thinks some of our "local" drivers are amoung the rudest, most inconsiderate drivers blog has ever been arround. yes i've heard the argument, 'if you think traffic is bad here, you should go to new york city'. but that rationale is retarded. this isn't a major metropolitan city, its a small town where you (or your family members) should be able to cross the street safely and easily. unfortunately, i agree that the problem will only be alleviated by gas costs going through the roof.

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bubba 6 years, 1 month ago

I agree with blog, the idea that the problem is caused by anyone but local commuters is just wrong.

Every solution that someone comes up with involves what someone else should do:

Make these people ride the bus. Force these employees to park there and walk, etcetera...

How about this: We can fix the traffic problem by not driving as much- If everyone of us rides the bus or our bikes or walks, then there is no traffic, except the occasional passer-through. Of course, this will never work, because everyone needs to drive their own car, but that is what it will take. You can't fix this by 'forcing someone else to park outside town and ride the bus.'

There's rarely traffic on the bike paths, and I've never seen the bus full of locals.

Expensive gas will provide an incentive for people to drive less, as would expensive parking, but nobody likes those solutions either, because everybody here wants a traffic solution that enables them to drive around by themselves and park right in front of every store they go to for free, while forcing someone else to ride the bus or park across town or something.

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MtnWarlock 6 years, 1 month ago

Traffic congestion in downtown Steamboat will "not" ease, until personal habits change! Anything short of communist rule on traffic, I don't see change coming soon. In our freedoms to drive, among the many freedoms we have, we have become a convenienced society that believes it's someone else's job to conserve or be pro-active! Until we see a change of consciousness, things will only get worse! Designing a system that can be tailored to our town is a "huge" undertaking and costly! I applaud those who are serving to solve this task!

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Oscar 6 years, 1 month ago

I think that if we eliminated parking on Lincoln between 3rd and 11th and used that space to create a walking mall on each side of the street that business would boom downtown and become much more pleasant for pedestrians,which is why business would boom. People love to shop where there are wide coblestone walking areas, with places to sit and nicely decorated with trees and flower pots. I've seen this strategy work very well in other parts of the US and EU and think it would work well here.

That in itself would force people to shuttle from the SB parking lot, but would require a similar investiment in parking availability and shuttle service on the south side of town.

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bcpow 6 years, 1 month ago

Charge me .50 cents to ride the bus from Heritage School. I can come spend money during the evenings at restaurants and bars and enjoy the summer concerts. I could even take it to the ski hill during the winter.

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hubiem 6 years, 1 month ago

traffic is worse in the summer, but we have more people here in the winter. the property management companies run shuttles in the winter, but don't in the summer. this forces everyone who is in town to drive. if the management companies ran a few shuttles in the summer as well, it might take some cars off the road.

in the winter turning left at a stoplight downtown is usually not a problem. in the summer, it is almost impossible sometimes. i was five cars back at fifth street last summer, and had to wait for five stoplight changes to turn left. the light turned green and traffic went straight through until it turned red again. one car would pull into the intersection each time the light turned green. when it turned red, that one car got to turn. this is pretty inconvenient. it is even more inconvenient when you've got that person (who didn't pay attention in drivers ed.) who refuses to pull into the intersection when the light turns green and then go left once it turns red. these people sit there and let the light turn green and red multiple times before they finally get a gap in traffic while the light is green. if we could we get left turn signals downtown it would help tremendously. if the left signals only worked in the summer that would be fine as well. someday winter traffic will be heavy enough to use them in the winter.

also why are the stoplights timed to move traffic west? once you go from the light at third street, you can usually drive straight through all lights moving west. (that is if the city bus actually decides to pull to the side and pick up instead of stopping out in the street.) when coming into town in the morning the lights stop traffic several times. how hard would it be to switch the timing so that the lights move traffic east in the morning and west in the afternoon and evening.

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housebound 6 years, 1 month ago

We promote retail growth for revenue with our planning, zoning ,affordable housing and expand municipal services which costs more than the income derived. Then they Block our second access out of town with a library expansion. Now we pay another consultant to tell us that highway 40 is used by people passing through. Next comes some legislation that adds to buses have the right of way. I was hoping we would see less city council meetings where they inevitably fix a mistake with a mistake. Less is more sometimes. Shopping produces packages which can only be hauled with vehicles designed for shopping. More than two bags on a bus takes the fun out of it. Reduce retail space requirements at the planning committee level or let that rude ups driver that blocks the alley between Oak st. and Lincoln deliver it!

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Ilike2dv8 6 years, 1 month ago

It's a behavior thing... we can't pave our way out of the problem. Use the transit system and support it's expansion. Exend the core trail so more folks can safely ride a bike from the west. Attract the appropriate retail west of town such as a new grocerie store, Post Net or Kinko's, more food options, ect... so we can keep some of the traffic out of downtown. I realize Clarks never made it but I believe that had more to do with poor timing than anything else, it's time! Also we have to get a gravel pit south of Steamboat. It doesn't have to be LaFarge but something has to be done to cut down on the number of trips generated by the new construction near the base area. It makes no sense to truck all the gravel and concrete for those huge projects through downtown...

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summerbird 6 years, 1 month ago

Free suggestions, no consultant fee charged:

Traffic configuration between 3rd and 11th streets:

Elimate parking and have 6 lanes of traffic, no left turn lanes, no left turns. Center lanes both east and west would be for through traffic, 2 outer lanes, both sides, for local.

Stop lights on odd number streets, with pedestrian scramble lights - people could cross in all four directions at the same time.

Start working now for a bypass: funding, plans, etc., so that in 10 years we will not be having this discussion.

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bcpow 6 years, 1 month ago

Second on the southern gravel pit. If it is ok for tourorists entering our town from the west (uh...airport I think) to see a pit it should be ok for those coming from the east or south. Only if those pics of a south valley gravel pit had been real instead part of a campaign to stop any logical placement of another pit to support the current building boom.

Sure was a nice day though.

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MtnWarlock 6 years, 1 month ago

bcpow, Yes it was a good day! Hope everyone else had one as well!

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btheball 6 years, 1 month ago

The bypass the bypass, the inevitable bypass:..

Mainstreet: Get with the Steamboat 700 people and traffic engineers on the bypass SOLUTION. Get the factions AND your Consultant on board with the concept to Coordinate and Cooperate to achieve a beneficial resolution FOR to the community.

If the community shoots it down, that'll be a stepping stone to the next solution.

If it takes 10 years, so be it. People will know and understand the means to the end and that would help to envision complementary community objectives.

A better use of taxpayer monies than a campaign for "friendly driving - getting people to obey the rules." Nice wish. Even if it came true, do you really expect tourists to follow suit?

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hubiem 6 years, 1 month ago

summerbird,

there is no way they are going to put two through lanes right through the middle of downtown and eliminate the parking on the sides. this would kill the downtown businesses. where would people park? there isn't enough parking space at busy times on oak, yampa and the side streets the way it is.

the no left turns idea will make downtown a nightmare. do you realize that that would also eliminate all left turns from the side streets onto lincoln as well. there is no way that everyone who wanted to be on the left side of the street could turn at 3rd or 11th. could you imagine the lines of people turning left that would create? if everyone turned left at third, how is the one lane alley behind chase rugs and mahogany going to handle all that traffic? people wanting to go west on the river side of lincoln would have to go east and then pull a u turn to go back west and vice versa for the people on the north side wanting to go east.

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shadow 6 years, 1 month ago

Wendy, five simple words sum it all up! A bypass is clearly needed.

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hubiem 6 years, 1 month ago

summerbird,

when you say that there will be no left turn on third, how do you expect people to get to howelson hill when they are coming from the mountain. they would have to drive all the way to 11th and then turn around if they can't turn left on third, or any other side street. or they would have to plan ahead and go right a block or two before where they really need to go left. tourists can barely figure out where things are downtown anyway then you expect them to understand that they have to go right to get left. your plan makes no sense for helping traffic flow better through downtown. if anything it makes it way more complicated. who wants to go shopping downtown when there is a six lane highway running right through the middle anyway.

also in reply to your first post, i once lived in a town that had one intersection with an infamous "all walk signal" as it was called in numerous letters of complaint to the newspaper. it was the slowest, most backed up intersection in the whole town. it might be nice for the pedestrians, but this will definitely slow traffic going through downtown. don't suggest something like this until you have seen it in action. it does not work on a busy street.

i agree that in theory a bypass would be the best option to get all the commuters, and people passing through to not go through downtown. i hear everyone saying bypass. can anyone tell me where a bypass can be built? i just don't see any option for building a bypass around town. everything bottlenecks between 11th and 13th street. there is no room on the northeast side of lincoln. there is no room on the southwest side of the river. someone please tell me where this new road is going to go. just yelling bypass, bypass, bypass isn't going to magically create space for it.

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twostroketerror 6 years, 1 month ago

Are we talking about mitigating the current traffic debacle, or looking forward to resolutions for the extra 4000 +/- cars the 700 Club will bring into town every day?

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trafficman 6 years, 1 month ago

An exclusive pedestrian phase is definitely something to avoid. An exclusive phase will only increase the overall cycle length that is required and add to the average delay per vehicle. A longer cycle length usually results in more pedestrians that ignore the signal and cross illegally. Not allowing pedestrians to cross side streets with the Lincoln Avenue traffic as is now permitted will greatly increase the wait time for pedestrians and contribute to jay-walking.

Changing the signal timing by time of day is a fairly common practice depending on the capabilities of the signal control equipment. Even the most basic traffic controller today has the ability to store 10 or more timing plans that can be programmed by time of day and day of week. Timing plans can be developed for directional progression if there is a clear peak flow of travel or a balanced progression when there is not a definitive peak flow. Two way progression is often difficult and sometimes not achievable due to the intersection spacing and cycle length that is needed to handle the volume of traffic. Adding more signals will generally make it harder to achieve two way progression.

The pedestrian walking speed used to calculate the cross timing, 4 feet per second (fps), had been the national standard until a recent recommended change to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices lowered this to 3.5 fps. Using only 3 fps as suggested in the article would only add more time to the cross street phase (approx. 6 seconds over what is presently required), and require an even higher cycle length and adding to the average delay per vehicle travelling through downtown.

Not being a resident but having spent considerable time during both summer and winter in Steamboat for over 15 years I haven't witnessed a need for the left turn phases in downtown, although there may be certain locations or times where it would be beneficial. If implemented, this would add another phase to the signal cycle and require a longer cycle length and most likely increase the average delay per vehicle and increase the wait time for pedestrians to cross the street. The impacts to all the other movements would need to be weighed against the benefits to the left turning traffic receiving a protected phase.

While perceptions of traffic problems are all relative, my overall impression is that traffic moves fairly well through downtown even in the peak periods, and there is a fair balance between vehicle and pedestrian traffic and parking for the business. Not having seen any traffic origin and destination numbers, but based on the low volume of traffic on US 40 outside of the City, my guess is the vast majority of the traffic is locally oriented either from its origin or destination. If that is the case, a bypass would remove very few trips from downtown and make justifying a bypass difficult due to the high costs to construct with limited benefit to traffic in downtown.

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STEMBOATwannabe 6 years, 1 month ago

1. Be careful of bypapsses. In my hometown they put one in. They thought it would alleviate traffic in downtown. It sure did! Now no one goes downtown. All the businesses are closing. It is really sad. The problem is that no one had to go downtown anymore. If they had traffic go only one way through downtown and the other way on the bypass, then there would have been the continued traffic in the area.

Yes a bypass would be good. But makae sure that at least 50% of the traffic continues down Lincoln.

2.

Parking and shuttles would make life easier for most people. Vail has been successful with their parking structures and the free shuttle. Yes the set up of the town is completely different. but it does show that it can be done. If there is a fee to park on the street in downtown that may be incentive enough for people to take a shuttle.

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bcpow 6 years, 1 month ago

Great info trafficman. If you could expand on it and put the information into a snazzy powerpoint someone around here would pay thousands for it.

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hubiem 6 years, 1 month ago

i really don't think that a bypass would hurt downtown businesses. the tourism here is what keeps downtown going. there are a lot of tourists who want to go shopping and out to dinner every evening. as long as people come here on vacation, we will have a busy downtown. however, i still am wondering where a bypass could possibly be built.

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corduroy 6 years ago

I would park at the transit center to get to work except: I live in south routt now, I would have to drive farther (past my office) to park, to take a bus the other way.. that's just plain silly. Now that we have a lovely community center, all those parking spots just got used up.. sorry transit center.. you fail!

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bigdog 6 years ago

Bypass placement, that's easy. The city just supported buying Emerald Mountain, maybe they can leverage that into a bypass Tunnel. Have it start just north of Treehaus and come out by James Brown. 4-6 lanes, people could fly SS at 55-60 mph and get to beautiful 700 or Hayden 10 minuets quicker!

Also, we could solve the gravel needs for the south valley/ski area will all of the tailings! And just think of all of the jobs that would be created.

I love progress!

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bubba 6 years ago

When they waste millions on this bypass and nobody uses it because traffic goes into town instead of around it, who will everyone suggest they force to use the new road? City Workers? Non-residents? Everyone but you?

Start with the easy stuff, parking meters, two hour parking, better bike lanes, maybe groom the core trail for x-country ski commuting in the winter. If it doesn't work, you're out a couple gallons of paint for the lanes, a couple gallons of fuel for the groomers and some parking meters.

To whom should I send my consulting bill?

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hubiem 6 years ago

big dog,

are you just joking, or are you serious about a tunnel through emerald mountain? do you understand the cost of something like that? i remember seeing something about a proposed 16 mile long tunnel costing $10,000,000,000. a three mile long tunnel four or six lanes wide through emerald would probably cost two billion dollars. the city and county won't even put down real asphalt on the roads. do you think that they would spring for this tunnel?

bubba,

i'm with you on the bike lanes thing. but i don't agree with everything else. didn't they used to have parking meters downtown? why did they remove them in the first place? i would bet the snow removal crews would love to see parking meters every 20 feet downtown. i don't know for sure, but i would bet that 1 parking meter probably costs at least $500. that is quite an investment for the whole downtown area. you make it sound like pocket change to put meters everywhere. in reality, it would be hundreds of thousands of dollars just to buy the meters, and who knows how much more money to have hundreds of posts placed in the sidewalks to mount them on. by the way, there's already a two hour parking restriction downtown. don't quit your day job, i don't think you would make much money as a consultant.

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bigdog 6 years ago

hubiem,

Mostly "tongue in cheek", but one has to ask what the real alternatives are to moving transient traffic around SS. It is a natural bottleneck that could have been foreseen with a little foresight 20 years ago.

I personally would love to see a walking mall on Yampa Street, local traffic only on Lincoln and truck/commuter/transient traffic elsewhere.

Maybe an elevated highway over the top of downtown? :-)

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bigdog 6 years ago

Maybe a bridge around the outside edge of Emerald Mountain like the ones in Glenwood Canyon? Just think of the fun we could have with the ski jump and skiing on Howelsen Hill!

We could name it the Cook By-Pass!

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bubba 6 years ago

OK, Hubiem, I may not be a traffic expert, but I do know a bit about planning, growth management, and economics. I've got a bit of experience with road construction too- so my point is: even if the meters cost a million dollars to install throughout downtown, and charged 25c per hour, eventually the cost of installing them would be paid back. The only way it wouldn't be would be if they were so effective in deterring everyone from parking downtown that they generated no revenue. Contrast this with the bypass, which does not deter anyone from driving (in fact, more roads encourage more driving). 1 Million dollars would probably not cover the engineering cost to design the whole road, and certainly wouldn't cover all of the legal challenges from people who don't want the road on their property, and guess what- you still have to build the road after all of that, which will likely cost 2.5-3 million dollars per mile (for what 3-4 miles?). Speaking of snow removal, that road will need crews to plow it too. So ultimately, you are spending what 10-12 million on a way to encourage more vehicle trips as opposed to 1 million to discourage vehicle trips.

Increasing road capacity does not solve traffic problems, and if T-Rex in Denver is any indication, doesn't even delay them. The only way to solve the traffic problem here is for people to drive less. The only thing the government has in it's power to do that is to make it more expensive to drive. I personally support expensive parking over fuel taxes, as some people have to drive, and the fuel tax hits them hardest (and in turn drives up costs for all of us) whereas parking fees target people who drive out of convenience.

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