Steamboat Springs From bike lanes to paid parking, the Steamboat Springs City Council considered a number of "scandalous things" - as councilwoman Cari Hermacinski called them - in a discussion of possible changes to Steamboat's main thoroughfare Tuesday.
The Colorado Department of Transportation plans a major reconstruction of U.S. Highway 40 through downtown Steamboat Springs, where it is known as Lincoln Avenue, in 2009 and 2010. And the city, hoping to minimize construction impacts, hopes to coordinate its own improvements with CDOT's work. City Council was briefed on both facets of the work Tuesday.
Consultants that conducted a traffic analysis of downtown Steamboat recommended the city make a number of improvements to Lincoln Avenue, from moving a traffic light at Eight Street to 11th Street, to expanding curbs out in front of the parking lanes at intersections to reduce the street-crossing distance for pedestrians.
The consultants' recommendations were tame, though, compared to considerations discussed after comments from members of the Centennial Hall audience. Steamboat resident John Fielding renewed his calls for a bypass, and Steamboat resident Bill Jameson said the city was wasting an opportunity to make "visionary" changes to Lincoln Avenue that truly would be pedestrian-friendly. Jameson suggested widening sidewalks, adding bike lanes and eliminating on-street parking and the road's center turn lane.
"That's visionary," Jameson said, "but it's tough politically. I suggest you start looking outside the box here. : This doesn't look any different really from what we've got. And what we've got is a problem."
Some council members reluctantly agreed with Jameson, a frequent meeting-goer known for his candid lambasting of city affairs during public comment.
"I actually liked what Mr. Jameson had to say," Councilman Scott Myller said, "and I don't want to walk away from that just yet."
"I hate agreeing with you, too, Bill," Councilman Jon Quinn added. "I know that's a lot of (parking) spaces. But when you look at increasing pedestrian friendliness, I think eliminating parking makes a lot of sense."
Hermacinski suggested a summer pilot program in which Lincoln Avenue's on-street parking would be turned into a lane for buses and cyclists only. She also suggested parking fees that would be dedicated to future streetscape improvements. Councilwoman Meg Bentley seconded the latter proposal.
"I agree with Cari," she said. "I think it's time we back up and start implementing paid parking."
Council President Loui Antonucci brought the paid-parking conversation to a close. He said the idea deserves a full public airing and should be put on a future work-session agenda.
"And it should be the only agenda item," Antonucci joked.
Councilman Steve Ivancie said he appreciated his younger counterparts' passion for cycling, but he also noted that Steamboat is not San Diego and that is not practical to make decisions based on an activity that is only viable for a few months of the year. He also stood up for older residents for whom cycling may not be an option any month of the year. Ivancie spoke in favor of the construction of one or more parking structures.
"What I think this will do is accelerate the discussion of a parking structure," Ivancie said. "It's just really starting to clarify to me that we have an enormous traffic and parking problem."
Apart from directing staff, council members took no official action at Tuesday's work-session meeting. Public Works Director Philo Shelton was given permission to begin coordinating some of the consultants' recommendations with CDOT, including the curb extensions, the stoplight move and underground infrastructure improvements. Other recommendations, such as making Third Street one-way between Oak and Pine streets, were put on hold.
In his presentation, local CDOT engineer Van Pilaud cautioned against some of the ideas being considered by council. He said any reconfiguration of Lincoln Avenue's lanes might trigger federal requirements to bring the road up to current width standards, which would require a substantial widening of the lanes that would all but eliminate the current parking lanes if the four travel lanes and one turning lane were retained.
But that might not be all bad, said Pilaud, who noted the number of parked-car and sideswipe accidents on the street.
"You've got roughly 43 percent of all your accidents that could be related to a substandard width road," Pilaud said. "When you open your door on Lincoln Avenue, you're taking your life into your own hands."