Steamboat Springs The handful of people who ran Tuesday's alternative transportation meeting stepped gingerly around specifics, avoiding divisive issues and the term "bypass."
With the discussion, organizers aimed only to gauge interest in a group that would promote traffic solutions, facilitator Chad James said. About 50 people attended the meeting at Steamboat Springs Community Center.
"We're not here to discuss specific bypass routes, tunnels or new roads," James said at the outset. "Everybody in here has a route, and we'll show you about 20 routes that other people : have put together over the past 40 years."
Those at the meeting, he said, wanted to encourage possible traffic solutions that elected officials have downplayed, such as an alternative to U.S. Highway 40 that allows trucks and other traffic to avoid downtown Steamboat.
One problem, organizer Fred Duckels said, is that city and county officials have ignored residents' suggestions.
"I've been trying for 20 years - it just goes in the wastebasket," he said. "I got to thinking there's got to be another way."
State Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, attended the meeting. He encouraged participants to carefully choose their terminology. Avoiding "bypass" is a good start, he said, because it has negative connotations.
"I don't like to call this a bypass, I like to call it an alternate route for local use," organizer Steve Elkins said. "You go downtown and sit at Winona's, and you have 15 dump trucks passing by. : We're not trying to take tourists away, we're trying to get trucks out of there."
Duckels, who owns Duckels Construction, said he wanted the group to represent those whose voices aren't typically heard.
"If you're not being represented elsewhere by special interests, we believe we can find a common interest," he said.
Duckels said those special interests included Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., environmentalists, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and downtown merchants.
Duckels, Elkins and organizer Jim Gill said longtime residents must step up to get a seat at the discussion table on traffic issues. Politicians are encouraging people to use alternative transportation, but that can't be the only answer, Gill said.
"Lincoln Avenue is going to be ground zero; it's going to be gridlocked," Duckels said. "Pretty soon, people won't be shopping downtown just because they're mad about it."
A crucial role for the group, which doesn't have a name, will be to provide information. Government officials have "brainwashed" local businesses against a possible bypass to U.S. 40, Elkins said. It would be this group's job to explain the benefits.
"We've also got to go in with an organized plan of what makes sense in the community, what would make it a better community for everyone," Elkins said.
Those who attended also brought up congestion around schools and grocery stores as well as the possibility of a toll road. They made no decisions, and James invited participants to sign up for e-mail updates. Those who are interested in joining can e-mail Duckels at email@example.com.
The group will have to come up with a concrete plan and address funding for any alternative to U.S. 40, participants said. Several people suggested getting the issue on the ballot. Government cash is tough to snag, Taylor said.
"I guess from a state standpoint, you just have to ask and ask and ask and have a good plan," Taylor said. "Never give up. The squeaky wheel sometimes gets greased. : This is a major project, as I see it, so start working on it now."