Fred Duckels: Bypass needed
April 6, 2008
Steamboat Springs — I have observed Steamboat Springs and U.S. Highway 40 for more than 60 years. I can remember times when one could look down Lincoln Avenue and not see a single vehicle. The traffic has greatly increased during this period, mostly after 1970.
It became obvious to me decades ago that at some point we would need a bypass to handle traffic through town. That time has come, as Lincoln Avenue now is approaching gridlock. Downtown Steamboat is undergoing renovation. There is a real effort to create an improved environment. The population and activity will only continue to increase.
Let’s take a look at the reasons given for maintaining the status quo, and possible solutions:
1. We can handle traffic by using creative techniques.
Answer: For how long is this approach supposed to work? This appears to be a Band-Aid.
2. We have people between a rock and a hard place and they will be forced into public transportation.
Answer: Commercial and through traffic won’t be using public transportation, but would certainly cause noise, pollution and chaos on Lincoln Avenue. It may take decades to develop a public transportation network to handle the traffic. Sparsely populated areas are probably not economical, yet many exist in the area.
3. Downtown Steamboat will lose business, and urban sprawl will result.
Answer: Captivating traffic is a poor way of doing business. Let those who need to use Lincoln Avenue do so. Sprawl is not likely.
4. We can’t just pave our way out.
Answer: If there is a dollar to be made, someone is going to make it. Our economy will continue to grow. The bypass is needed for the future. I am irritated at the situation when I need to cross town. A bypass was near fruition 25 years ago when the merchants nixed the idea. Many have been inconvenienced throughout the years in order to subsidize local businesses. I feel that we have paid our dues. More traffic downtown will make it an increasingly undesirable place.
Our leaders have looked to CDOT to improve U.S. 40 west of town. I do not see the wisdom in this, when we seem unwilling to address the gridlock at 13th Street.
The discussion I hear is concerned only with solving the problems of today. In order to be responsible, we need to give ourselves a 50-year window. This projection will be difficult, but we must move forward.
Engineers will need to study and find solutions to traffic needs. To date, the climate seems to be “tell us that we don’t need a bypass.” A paid expert will tell you anything you want to hear.
I have heard many questions in regards to a bypass location. Going behind Howelsen would be unacceptable for trucks. It would be long with steep grades, and trucks climbing the grades would raise the decibel level, as would descending the grade with engine brakes.
My idea is to divert from U.S. 40 west of town, possibly using the James Brown Bridge. The bypass would then proceed east on the southwest side and adjacent to the railroad tracks. The road could then pass over the railroad near the Mount Werner intersection and rejoin U.S. 40. Sprawl isn’t likely on this route.
Room is available in this corridor to construct a road. As with any construction project, neighborhoods would be affected. A large excavation will be necessary near the Depot Art Center to remove the hill. This would not be popular in some circles, but we have a responsibility to make decisions and solve problems in our time. Politics in Steamboat try not to offend anyone, but this plan needs to move forward immediately, as we already have delayed for too long.
The bypass proposition will find many supporters and much entrenched opposition. The way to have a voice at the table is to organize and demand to be heard. If this is of interest, call me at 879-6072, fax 879-6748 or e-mail Duckels@aol.com.