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Colorado Springs parks board hears 'safety-sizing' proposal for Cascade Avenue

June 9, 2016 Updated: June 10, 2016 at 7:07 am
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photo - Crosswalks along Cascade Ave. in the middle of the Colorado College campus are not only used by students, but the public as well. Tuesday, January 15, 2016 .Photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette
Crosswalks along Cascade Ave. in the middle of the Colorado College campus are not only used by students, but the public as well. Tuesday, January 15, 2016 .Photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette 

Colorado College students could find fewer crosswalks and no flashing lights when they return to campus in August, under a proposal that suddenly arose this week to implement a sliver of the Old North End Association's "safety-sizing" plan.  

The original idea was to narrow four north-south arterials in the neighborhood to improve pedestrian and traffic safety, stretching from Jackson Street near Penrose Hospital on the north down to Willamette Avenue on the south.

Now city Traffic Engineer Kathleen Krager wants to implement that approach only on Cascade Avenue through the Colorado College campus, between Uintah and Cache la Poudre streets.

That doesn't sit well with City Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler, who represents and lives in the Old North End, a historic neighborhood of stately homes.

"The fact is, we have been holding community meetings for the last few months to get public input for the previous plan to narrow all four roads," Gaebler said Thursday after Krager briefed the Parks Advisory Board. "We've had significant input and public process over that plan, and this plan came out in a press release a day ago, is coming to the Planning Commission June 16 and then to the council. I want the voice of the people in my vote decision. It seems very rushed."

Krager said, "I need to do this project before students come back in August because we're having an increasing number of pedestrian accidents, and it's just a matter of time."

Earlier this spring, she said Cascade would be narrowed along 17 blocks, from Jackson to Willamette, and the city would study the results and report back before trying to implement the rest of the plan.

She also said then that Cascade averages 12,000 vehicles a day.

Thursday, she said the street's daily traffic count is 9,000 vehicles, and it would be narrowed only through the campus.

"I understand trying to do it before the students come back," Gaebler said. "But I feel they're doing it in a vacuum without considering all the issues of that neighborhood and getting input from them."

"We were frankly surprised to hear the news earlier this week," said Bob Sullivan, of the Old North End Association. " ... we were hoping to get changes made to make all the streets in the Old North End safer for everybody, not just the three blocks that go through Colorado College."

Cascade would be slimmed to two lanes by converting the outside lanes in each direction for bicycle use. Half of the four campus crosswalks would be eliminated, along with their flashing lights.

The motion-triggered lights have given students a false sense of security, Krager said. And because the lights sometimes go on even when no pedestrians are present, some drivers don't heed them.

"I am concerned about safety," Gaebler said, "and I think the road probably does need to be narrowed. But it needs to be part of the bigger plan for the neighborhood.

"Show the neighbors this has been really researched with good data and gives good bicycling connectivity. Having bike lane connections for commuting purposes is really important. We can't decide we're going to just address this one block. We have to look at the big picture."

Krager said three- to four-lane streets have much higher accident rates, so two lanes are preferable.

In order to deter jaywalking because of reduced crosswalks, CC would pay to close the Cascade medians and provide landscaping to block passage, she said. Sidewalks would be removed, and the bike lanes painted.

"If it doesn't work, we can erase the paint and go back to (four) lanes," Krager said.

A pedestrian bridge would need "extremely long ramps that would tear up the quad. ... You have to provide a very good barrier on either side. I would hate to think what CC would look like."

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