Tom Ross: Big Ditch got you down?
May 22, 2010
Steamboat Springs — I was creeping down Lincoln Avenue with the speedometer hovering just below 20 mph Friday morning when a law enforcement officer actually spun his arm vigorously to encourage me to speed up. I hastened to comply.
No more than half a block later, a whiskered flagman gave me a tired grin and urged me to slow down. I cranked up the volume on the Sirius satellite blues channel.
"Nobody loves me but my mama, and she could be jivin' too!"
Commuting through downtown Steamboat has been like that this month. Yep, I've got the ever-lovin' mud season street construction blues.
As I ran the gauntlet Friday, I glanced to my right and thought, "God bless America! It looks like the Panama Canal construction!" Somebody call Teddy Roosevelt and Roald Amundsen and tell them we've found the Northwest Passage!
Another Friday just went by without much work being accomplished on that sloppy ditch known affectionately as the Lincoln Avenue Seaway.
When it rains Wednesday and Thursday — and it always rains Wednesday and Thursday in downtown Steamboat Springs — the bulk of the construction dudes go home, guaranteeing us sunshine and good construction weather Friday and Sunday. And nothing much happens Friday and Sunday.
For the record, we received 3.92 inches of precipitation in town in April, and as of Friday, we'd seen 4.22 inches of precipitation in May with a little more than a week to go.
Maybe it's time to change our approach to Lincoln Avenue.
How many wine-and-cheese affairs have you attended in the past five years where someone was ranting about our traffic problem and someone else half-seriously suggested that we should dig a tunnel beneath Lincoln Avenue to accommodate four lanes of through traffic?
It finally has dawned on me that the weather gods have sent us the wettest mud season in memory specifically to buy us time to build the Crawford Tunnel.
Steamboat Springs never will be the same once the tunnel is completed. We'll ride cruiser bikes in lazy loops down the above-ground section of Lincoln Avenue and plant herb gardens on Eighth Street while truck traffic and buses roar out of sight beneath us.
There are some important things we must accomplish while we are waiting for Congress to fund the tunnel and bail us out of our mud season mire. If we're going to live with the entirety of our main street dug up for another two years while the tunnel is built, we must find a way to make the big trench a tourism amenity.
Right off the top of my head, I can imagine a mud bog race series for monster trucks. Triple Crown mud wrestling?
Wrong demographic? OK, how about the Western Slope's only downtown water ski lake?
Seriously, this spring's construction weather has added to the hardship for our downtown merchants, the contractors and our patient law enforcement community. Somehow we'll get through this together — at least, I think we will.
As the ongoing construction blocks access to the key intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Third Street this coming week, it would be a big help if the school community looked for every chance to carpool. It would be even better if some students who don't usually ride the yellow bus chose that option for the last few weeks of the school year (I know, seniors excluded).
Whatever you do, be good to one another this week.