U.S. 40 talks, inaction continue

Shelton talks history of bypass discussions at Economic Summit

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— Before Philo Shelton started his new job as public works director for the city of Steamboat Springs, he received a prediction from a predecessor: "You will be talking about the bypass at some time in your career."

The prophecy was fulfilled Thursday, when Shelton outlined the history of bypass discussions in Steamboat Springs at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Economic Development Council's 2008 Economic Summit, titled "Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Transportation and our Economic Future."

Shelton was a panelist for a discussion titled "Highway 40: Congestion or Compromise?" Moderator and Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said the topic is one that has persisted for decades.

"Whether you moved here in the 70s, 80s or 90s, Highway 40 through town has long been an issue," she said.

Shelton said the idea of an alternate route to U.S. Highway 40 around Steamboat was first studied in 1973. Six alternatives were considered, but none was built. The idea - in 14 different forms - was studied again in the 1990s. Shelton said the community decided all the options were unacceptable, but if a bypass was going to be considered, it would have to go south of U.S. 40. In 2004, the city reevaluated two routes: extensions of either Howelsen Parkway or Yampa Street.

All that leads to the city's current policy, which is to promote alternative modes of transportation rather than building new roads, Shelton said.

"There's really no way to pave your way out of growth," Shelton said, using a phrase often said by city community development and planning director Tom Leeson.

"There's always going to be problems with transportation. You never can build yourself out of it," Shelton added.

$23.5 million until 2035

Although a bypass is not actively being pursued, City Engineer Janet Hruby said the city is taking other steps to improve U.S. 40 traffic flow. Hruby explained the city and county's recently adopted access management plan, which prescribes techniques for improving travel on U.S. 40 in the west Steamboat area. The techniques include eliminating some of the current accesses to the highway, removing turning vehicles from through traffic lanes and adding internal connections that would reduce the need for motorists to get on the highway.

"It starts with a plan," Hruby said. "Access management is controlling the way you access the highway."

The plan has received mixed reviews. A group of west Steamboat business owners submitted a letter to the city expressing their opposition to it because of their loss of access, full turning movements or both. Hruby said the city doesn't have money or a plan in place to carry out the plan itself, and that the changes likely won't occur until properties are redeveloped.

"As development occurs, little pieces can happen," said Hruby, who also said the plan should make things easier for developers since it will be approved by the Colorado Department of Transportation. "If a developer wants to develop a property, they don't need to negotiate with CDOT."

Dave Eller, a CDOT Region 3 engineer, outlined the process by which highway improvements get paid for and built. Eller noted the statewide shortfall in transportation funding that makes it hard and tiresome to get any project in line for construction. With the Northwest Transportation Region - Routt, Moffat, Jackson, Grand and Rio Blanco counties - expected to receive only $23.5 million for highways between now and 2035, progress will be slow on projects such as the U.S. 40 improvements that are waiting in line for state funding. U.S. 40 currently is third on the region's priority list, after Colorado highways 13 and 131.

Nonetheless, Eller said the budgetary situation should not discourage local governments from being involved and planning needed improvements in case things change.

"Local governments must advocate for the projects that they want prioritized through the planning process," Eller said.

Comments

summerbird 5 years, 11 months ago

Concerning the bypass issue: this community reminds me of the kid who wouldn't take his medicine so the mother has to chase hime around the house until she can catch him. Thirty years is a long time, the kid and the dose just gets bigger and more bitter.

Get real people! Ignoring the the problem won't make it go away. I don't care how many "alternative" plans you have and how to a greater or lesser degee they are successful, you are still going to need a bypass.

If you think that none of the plans are acceptable, bite the bullet and choose the lesser unacceptable plan and go with it!

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trafficman 5 years, 11 months ago

"There's always going to be problems with transportation. You never can build yourself out of it," It is exactly this type of comment and the lack of political will to get things done that has created significant amounts of traffic problems throughout the country. In large dense urban areas there are limitations as to what additional capacity can be added. But communities that take a proactive approach to transportation and effectively combine transportation and land use planning can have greater success. Combining the two can help reduce the amount of new trips that are generated when growth occurs, but there are still increases in the number of trips and these need to be accommodated.

Taking the approach that we will never be able to solve the problem therefore we should not construct any new capacity and hope that the other person will start riding the bus is what has gotten many communities into serious congestion problems. The reality is if you don't plan for the growth, and build capacity to handle the growth, you will only end up with more congestion and a much higher price to try and remedy the situation at a later date.

A comprehensive access management plan is a valuable component of any long range transportation plan and while it may have impact to some local businesses, it is one that can provide significant long term benefits when development occurs and should be seriously considered.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 11 months ago

Philo! The "community" did not decide that an alternate route was unacceptable, special interests made that decision. In the Pilot's own "Question of the Week" 74% of the respondents preferred an alternate route.

At one time an alternate route was a go, CDOT was on board, suddenly at the last hour special interests placed their welfare above that of the community. We are now trying to cope with the results.

Those who favor a public transportation solution to all our problems, try to label an alternate route as "old hat". Common sense is as valid now as it was in the last four decades.

The public transportation proponents all drink from the same water cooler. The public may not understand that Lincoln Avenue is the "trump card" that will force them onto public transportation.

To build an alternate route would allow citizens to decide for themselves. This can't be tolerated as very few would choose public transportation.

The City is merely acting as a surrogate for those not willing to be identified. Scientific thinking starts with all available resources and follows to an unknown conclusion. In this case the conclusion has been predetermined. No facts have come out, no schedule, no plans, only selective research. Where are we headed?

Methinks we have the cart in front of the horse.

Public transportation is a fine idea but may take decades to implement. In the meantime we cannot neglect our infrastructure to hasten it's arrival.

Public statements need to be accurate and free from spin. No longer will the public be uninformed about what is going on, if I have anything to say.

PS I just heard that I-70 will be closed intil further notice.

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dogd 5 years, 11 months ago

Great and articulate post, Fred. The bypass denial mentality really typifies the sort of probably eventually disastrous immaturity that currently rules not only our community, but our nation.

So much is corrupted by an overriding plague of me-greed. And, really, I'm sure that you suffer from some of it, and so do I. Few don't.

But the need for mature vision is great, and if enough talented people can put some time and energy into this thing like you are doing, the result will follow. The time for the bypass is NOW. I figure that you will not fail. But...

I'll do my part by telling you how the REAL process works.

1 Don't waste time talking to CDOT

2 Don't waste time presenting to city council

3 You see a county commissioner at the Shack..don't bother.

What you've got to do is convince about five of the seven biggest developers that it is in the financial interest of all concerned. Like it or not that's how this place works nowdays.

Should work, eventually, because what you will tell them is true.

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thecondoguy1 5 years, 11 months ago

Twent Mile Road kids, Twenty Mile Road, quit the diesel beltching soot spewing earth shaking filthy racket making life threatening eye sore junk from coming through town when they do not have to, Twenty Mile Road, all it takes is a sign, COMMERCIAL VEHICLES EXIT HERE, how hard can that be, except no money churning contruction boondogle. Not everything has to be a construction project does it? There is as much construction in Steamboat as there is in Dubai, give me a break.........................

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dogd 5 years, 11 months ago

thecondoguy:

Sometimes a little construction can prevent a bunch of destruction. Twentymile is a cumbersome alternative. Nobody is gonna buy it.

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thecondoguy1 5 years, 11 months ago

Well then dog, let us eat cake and enjoy this blight, and health hazard of commercial vehicles transporting through town, if driving that crap through Steamboat and up bunny ears is not combersome, and dangerous I don't know what is. But so be it, another massive construction boondogle, creating the need for a few more diesel Dodge Rams clattering around town and of course we shall eat cake, and a little diesel soot but cake non the less...........

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MtnWarlock 5 years, 11 months ago

An alternate route is going to cause a ruckus, no matter how you plan it! The land is too expensive to acquire and seizing it will be ugly! Funding is a whole other battle! Sorry, it's just the truth! This is going to take a lot of work to get fixed.

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colowoodsman 5 years, 11 months ago

To paraphrarse some of the other posts I've read here; 'That's what you get for building a resort community along a Federal highway! If you don't like it, take your resort somewhere else'. US 40 (like a lot of us locals) was here before the tourism takeover. It was the major route from Denver to Salt Lake before the interstate system went in. The city/tourism industry has been so busy building ball fields, tennis courts and placating the downtown merchants they have totally neglected this inevitable 'bottleneck'. At one time extending Yampa behind the library and through Dream Island was considered as a bypass. Another option was extending Oak through the park across Lincoln from the library. I doubt either of these would 'fly' today. Better get used to deisel fumes for a long ime to come.

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ColoradoNative 5 years, 11 months ago

Fred keep preaching the truth. The people of Steamboat are listening.

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