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Colorado College traffic plan draws fire at meeting

May 1, 2013 Updated: May 1, 2013 at 9:45 pm

'Traffic calming ' measures in a draft transportation plan for Colorado College that propose narrowing stretches of Cascade and Nevada avenues to one lane didn't exactly have a calming effect Wednesday night.

Concerns over narrowing those two main north-south thoroughfares through the downtown Colorado Springs campus included where the displaced traffic would go, the impact to commuters and concern that it would slow emergency vehicles, especially ambulances headed to Penrose Hospital.

The hospital is on East Jackson Street, between Cascade and Nevada, north of the college.

Those streets, said Nancy Lippincott, a nurse and area resident, are critical for emergency vehicles headed to Penrose. One resident said narrowing the streets could make the difference between life and death for a patient.

The plan also includes such things as adding stop signs at intersections, wider and brighter crosswalks and improved signal timing. The steps are aimed to improve pedestrian and vehicle safety on roads that flank the campus.

There's plenty left to do, however.

'We want to stress that the public vetting process is not over yet, ' said Tim Seibert, project manager with NES, the firm leading the college's master plan process.

The traffic plan sparking debate Wednesday evening at the campus is based on input from a 'Working Group ' put together to study traffic patterns and make recommendations and from public input over the last seven months, he said.

It was a free-flowing meeting with about 70 people that included the reintroduction of a tunnel under Cascade earlier killed by the group because of aesthetic and cost concerns. The meeting also saw conspiracy allegations leveled at the college and complaints that the college was not paying its fair share as it looked for solutions to campus traffic issues.

The college, said Jane Morgan, an area resident and financial planner, 'wants to reduce Cascade to one lane and ultimately close it. '

The $6 to $10 million price tag, she added, was too high compared with other major road projects needed in the county, such as the widening of Powers Boulevard, and Interstate 25 interchanges at Fillmore Street and Cimarron Street.

Another critic of the plan was Working Group member Stephen Marsh, who believes the solution is to separate vehicle traffic from CC students.

'We believe this (plan) is not in the best interest and is a band-aid approach and temporary solution, ' he said.

Instead, David Swint introduced a tunnel option that would 'de-conflict vehicles and students ' at a cost of about $2.5 million.

'I think the underpass has a lot of possibilities, ' Swint said.

It's a permanent solution, he said, and would not restrict traffic.

The chief objection to the underpass was pedestrian security, especially at night.

'In the dark, I don't know anybody who is going to be safe using this, ' one resident said.

Transportation issues at the college, said resident Chesley Miller, have come up before.

In 2007, a CC proposal to shut down two blocks of Cache La Poudre Street and narrow Cascade Avenue drew plenty of harsh opposition from downtown Colorado Springs residents. The proposal died.

'I'd like to have a moratorium, a time-out, ' Miller said.

Colorado College, she said, 'can take care of this with their campus, they can solve this. '

The next step for the recommendation is a meeting on May 7 before the Citizen's Transportation Advisory Board.

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