Traffic backs up from 13th Street along U.S. Highway 40 during construction last week. Although several improvements to U.S. 40 would accompany the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation, the 13th Street bottleneck is left relatively unaddressed.

Photo by John F. Russell

Traffic backs up from 13th Street along U.S. Highway 40 during construction last week. Although several improvements to U.S. 40 would accompany the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation, the 13th Street bottleneck is left relatively unaddressed.

Study projects big increase in US 40 traffic

Findings estimate cars will nearly double on highway by 2035


By the numbers

Average daily trips on U.S. 40:

Location - Now - 2035*

Brandon Circle - 13,874 - 25,111

Sleepy Bear - 14,340 - 25,956

Elk River Road - 20,966 - 37,949

13th Street - 31,282 - 45,359

* Projection

Source: U.S. Highway 40 NEPA study

On the 'Net

Visit www.steamboatpilo... for an in-depth guide to Steamboat 700 including past stories, statistics and document downloads.

— The 13th Street bottleneck at the west entrance to downtown Steamboat Springs is left relatively unaddressed in required traffic improvements that would accompany the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation.

Some argue that because the bottleneck is a community problem that has been neglected for decades, it shouldn't be laid at the feet of one developer. Others contend that it would be irresponsible for the city to approve the development without first solving the problem.

"We're kidding ourselves if we don't deal with that soon," Steamboat Springs City Councilman Steve Ivancie said Tuesday.

Steamboat 700 proposes 2,000 homes and 380,000 square feet of commercial space on 487 acres just west of city limits. A National Environmental Protection Act study of U.S. Highway 40 from downtown to Steamboat II has identified several improvements to the highway that would accompany the development in phases, if City Council agrees to annex the development at a meeting Oct. 13.

Those improvements include a widening of U.S. 40 to four lanes, intersection upgrades, additional transit routes and more accommodation for cyclists and pedestrians. The improvements would actually put more pressure on 13th Street and reduce its level of service, a report released by the city Thursday shows.

The intersection of 13th Street and Lincoln Avenue, as U.S. 40 is known through the city, is left on a list of "contingent capital items" for which Steamboat 700 would pay 25 percent of the cost, if and when a solution is identified and Steamboat 700 reaches 800 dwelling units.

"Essentially (council's) take on it was that while Steamboat 700 will certainly increase traffic on that location : the problem exists today, it's a larger community problem, and it's not appropriate to put 100 percent of the cost on Steamboat 700," city Planning Services Manager John Eastman said.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, resident Maryann Wall said that was an unacceptable compromise.

"This bottleneck problem has been kicked down the road forever," Wall said. "My concern is that this problem has not been adequately addressed."

Resident Bud Romberg countered that if the city insists on dropping the 13th Street bottleneck problem on the laps of Steamboat 700, it risks losing a partner to help pay for all the other needed improvements to the highway and the goals of the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan.

"Here you've got somebody who is going to deal with what the west Steamboat plan has asked for," Romberg said. "If we don't take the opportunity now, we may never have the opportunity again."

Solutions for bypassing downtown traffic congestion have been considered since as early as the 1960s, according to reports. City officials have always chosen a no-action alternative over unsavory options that could have a detrimental effect on the character of Old Town or disturb valued open space and parks.

The city's most recent transportation and mobility analysis suggests options such as extending Oak Street west and then south around Iron Spring Park to connect with the intersection of 13th Street and Lincoln Avenue. Another proposal is to widen Lincoln Avenue to six lanes between 13th Street and 12th Street.

Eastman said the no-action approach has been appropriate thus far because the city's true traffic problem is at U.S. 40 and Elk River Road.

"It's not actually where things back up right now," Eastman said about 13th Street. "The bottleneck doesn't actually exist yet."

With the proposed improvements to U.S. 40, however, the Elk River Road intersection would be improved and the major congestion issues would shift east to 13th Street. Intersections are given level-of-service ratings from A to F. A traffic technical memorandum for the NEPA study released Thursday shows that although proposed improvements upgrade most U.S. 40 intersections in western Steamboat to ratings of A or B, 13th Street degrades from B to E, or nearly failing.

"E is a very congested condition," Eastman said. "All of the community plans say that we should be addressing and adding some additional capacity to the bottleneck after you increase to four lanes. : "I think the emphasis is just as much about emergency services as anything."


Martha D Young 7 years, 6 months ago

City Planning Services Manager Eastman says the bottleneck does not yet exist at 13th Street. To what city is he referring? Putting the blame for the bottleneck at the intersection of 129 and 40 does nothing to address the 13th Street problem. How long will the City's historic "do nothing" approach be allowed to continue?


Fred Duckels 7 years, 6 months ago

Martha, The main problem is special interests and ideology. The city appears to be the surrogate of choice in camouflaging this "quacking" traffic problem. It quacks like a traffic problem, but quacks can be deceiving. We need to bring all parties in and discuss where we are going, this has never been done for obvious reasons. John, you say no action is needed at this time, and I understand the economy is slow, but once we do need action, relief is 5 to 10 years out. I am calling for action now, what is wrong with looking down the road, isn't that why we have planners? How much longer can we kick the can down the road, we need leaders on council, we don't need more council members just to keep the seats warm.


freerider 7 years, 6 months ago

There it is folks " left relatively unaddressed " and " if and when a solution is identified " this is proof positive that the city council is clueless about the traffic problem at 129 & 40 .... nobody has a solution for this , now they want to put 4 to 6 thousand more cars and trucks on the road and then try to fix it ..what insanity is driving this council at this point ?? OK so lets have a little vision here . The 700 farce puts up 800 houses and we have 2 thousand more cars and trucks on the road . Then what ?? shut down the highway for road work ... ?? you have got to be kidding me . Does anybody on the council live west of town ?? Does anybody on the council give a crap about the people that do ? Also whats to prevent the developers from walking away from this problem ? There's no guarantee about that . Alot of this could go unresolved and the 700 farce files bankrupcy and walks away from it letting Steamboat holding the bag of crap. Even if this is in writing or a firm contract with the city , contracts amount to a wad of toilet paper in most situations. marthalee is correct in stating this is the "do nothing council " or what I like to think of them as the let the next guy fix it council...let the next guy fix it...let the next guy fix it...let the next guy fix it


Scott Ford 7 years, 6 months ago

Hi Fred - I have seen describe what a possible "by-pass" could look like. For discussion purpose, what do you think the rough "ballpark" cost on such a project would be? $150 to $200 million in today's dollars?

Where I am headed with this line of questioning - is that when it comes to allocating dollars - I am not too sure there is the political will to do anything about it. If we (the citizens of Steamboat Springs) had to pay for all or a substantial portion of the cost to fix the traffic - I think we would find tolerating the traffic - even as bad as it is projected to be - better then parting with our dollars. What do you think?

I am way out of my league in trying to guess cost. Give me a rough cost estimate and I will do a quick-n-dirty cost estimate of the mil-levy and annual cost to the average household would be. Is $200 million unrealistic?


Fred Duckels 7 years, 6 months ago

Scott, Numbers are irrelevant at present, we need to get engineers and highway users together and talk without all the agendas muddying the water. Letting the city dominate the conversation with their marching orders and own set of facts will lead us into a very expensive trap. No one within a mile of city hall will even admit to a traffic problem, so we need a wake up call. Traffic concerns are evident at most every meeting, but the city has it's earmuffs on. If candidates are not willing to share concerns, are we just electing seat warmers? John Fetcher and others looked after our water, engineers update our water and sanitation systems, regulations will not allow neglect in these areas but everyone is a highway engineer. Special interests all want the highway to serve them and provide protection against competition. How will self serving lead to a healthy vibrant community?


Fred Duckels 7 years, 6 months ago

13th st certainly contributes to morning traffic delays, Dr.Wall's employees take up to 57 minutes to get to work. Lincoln affects the whole area with traffic problems, but only the retail and resort get to have any say in the matter. They very adequately look out for their interests. Any discussion on traffic should include all the affected parties, not just the chosen and their surrogates.


ElevenFootPole 7 years, 6 months ago

Sounds like Dr. Wall's employees stopped for bagels & coffee, then told her they were late because of traffic. With all those degrees, I would think she would be a little smarter than that.


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