Steamboat Springs After years of setbacks, stalls and contentious debates in Citizens Hall, the city of Steamboat Springs is making some progress on its plan to replace the troublesome access into Emerald Park.
City Manager Deb Hinsvark told the Steamboat City Council this week that negotiations with Union Pacific Railroad to create a new access are moving forward.
The public projects coordinator for Union Pacific is expected to visit Steamboat later this month to discuss and review the city's plans.
It's the first step in what still could be a long process.
Hinsvark said the city wants to replace its vehicular railroad crossing at Trafalgar Drive with a pedestrian-only crossing via the Yampa River Core Trail and create a new vehicular crossing near the Hampton Inn.
Both crossings would have gates and signals that activate when a train is approaching.
In her report to City Council, Hinsvark said trespassing from the proposed site of the new crossing near the Hampton Inn into Emerald Park has been an ongoing safety issue, and the creation of the new access will address that concern.
“This has been a problem for the railroad, and we feel certain they will be interested in a new signaled and safe crossing at the site,” Hinsvark wrote to council members.
However, if history is a guide, the new crossing still could be at least two years away.
City Engineer Ben Beall said Monday the public crossing into the Fish Creek Mobile Home Park was the last time the city worked with Union Pacific to create a new railroad crossing.
He said from the point where the city is on its current project, it took about two and a half years to get the last crossing installed.
“Where this one falls, we don't know yet,” Beall said. “It could be more complex, and it could be less complex.”
After the upcoming visit from Union Pacific for what is called a "field diagnostic," the city could then submit an application and detailed plans for the new crossing, Beall said.
In the city's eyes, the proposed crossing would eliminate a safety issue of unsafe crossings while also creating a better vehicular entrance into the park.
The access into Emerald Park has long been a hot-button issue for the city.
Currently, the only vehicular access to the park runs in front of the households on Pamela Lane, and summer visitors to the park must endure a long run of several speed bumps to get there.
Fearing new traffic and noise in their neighborhood, Pamela Lane residents have objected to several requests from Triple Crown to utilize the ballfields there in the summer.
But for more than 10 years now, plans to create a new access into the park have gone unrealized.
The latest discussion about the Emerald Park access was spurred by a new request from Triple Crown to use the fields so that it can add about 60 teams to its Mountain Magic baseball tournament during three weekends in June.
Steamboat Springs Chamber CEO Tom Kern and Triple Crown representative Jason McCoy told the Parks and Recreation Commission last month that a lack of field space here is causing Triple Crown to turn away several teams from the upcoming tournament.
Pamela Lane residents again showed up to oppose Triple Crown's request.
The city has budgeted at least $1.4 million next year to finalize the design of the new access and possibly start construction.
Council member Scott Myller recently said the current council is resolved to see the project go forward.
“We have told our staff to get (the new access) done. It is in the capital improvement program,” Myller said. “I really do think the political will on our council right now is there to fix the Pamela Lane access."
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10