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Neighborhood group backs plan to reduce streets around Colorado College for pedestrian safety

April 11, 2016 Updated: April 11, 2016 at 7:59 pm
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Here we go again.

After another Colorado College student was hit and injured while crossing one of the busy streets that slice through the campus, the Old North End Neighborhood Association took the lead on reviving an idea that's been batted around for decades.

The organization's board tentatively approved what it calls the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Plan at a meeting in early March.

The second of two public meetings unveiling the proposal will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at First Lutheran Church, 1515 N. Cascade Ave.

The gist: reduce six nearby streets - North Cascade, Nevada and Wahsatch avenues and North Weber, Uintah and Fontanero streets - from two lanes of traffic in each direction to one lane and add a bicycle lane on some.

"We call it safety sizing because it makes traffic quieter. But most of all, it cuts the major problem - which is one car in one lane stops, the pedestrian walks in the crossing, and the car in the other lane doesn't stop and strikes the pedestrian," said Bob Loevy, a retired CC professor and one of the leaders of the initiative.

That's how the student was hit in January, as she was crossing Cascade Avenue. She was pinned under the vehicle and dragged, suffering a broken collarbone and a lacerated liver. The student is recuperating but has recovered enough to be back in class.

There have been 30 pedestrian-related accidents at crosswalks and intersections adjacent to or within the CC campus in recent years, according to the draft plan. Ten of those accidents involved pedestrians and 20 included bicyclists or skateboarders.

The association took up the cause because the northern border of CC is the southern border of the Old North End, a historic neighborhood with stately turn-of-the-century homes.

"It would make a tremendous difference to people who live on these streets," Loevy said. "Traffic would move along at a steady speed, instead of overanxious drivers cutting from one lane to another and passing people at high speeds."

Lane reductions also would lessen noise, improve pedestrian safety, eliminate street racing, and according to a 2013 CC transportation plan, decrease auto accidents anywhere from 10 to 65 percent.

But when a similar idea was proposed in 2008, neighbors appealed the city Planning Commission's approval and the Colorado Springs City Council rejected the plan. Neighbors don't like this one, either.

Dr. Stephen Marsh, a retired surgeon who lives in the Old North End and whose wife was born in the neighborhood, has opposed the renditions. Some have included closing Cascade Avenue where it dissects the campus between Uintah Avenue and Cache la Poudre Street, or adding roundabout traffic circles on Cascade.

This version has neither of those elements, but Marsh still is against it.

"It's an unnecessary expense and effort and runs some risk of worsening traffic issues," he said.

This plan also differs from others in scope.

"I don't think there's ever been such a huge effort to do six streets, some of which have nothing to do with Colorado College," Marsh said.

The proposal would be implemented in phases and would not require construction, just repainting, said city traffic engineer Kathleen Krager, who also manages the traffic engineering division.

The first step would be eliminating two of the four lanes on Cascade Avenue from Willamette Avenue to Jackson Street by Penrose Hospital. That's 17 city blocks. The number of crosswalks on Cascade also would be reduced from four to two.

"If we're reducing the number of lanes it makes sense that we don't ask people to stop as often," she said.

About 12,000 vehicles travel on Cascade daily, Krager said. And that amount of traffic "fits nicely on a two-lane road - it doesn't need four lanes to accommodate." The speed limit of 35 mph wouldn't change.

Weber Street would follow suit.

Krager said the city will hold a "major public meeting" in early May and take the proposal to the City Council in late May.

After one year, the city would study the traffic count and produce a report on how the project went. With the council's blessing, the project would expand to North Nevada Avenue and other streets. Nevada would be reduced to one lane in each direction from the Rock Island Bridge to just north of Uintah Street, Krager said.

The Rock Island Bridge, south of Fillmore Street, was reduced to one lane in each direction in 2013 for repairs. Loevy said during that time there were never backups, and there were no complaints.

The association's proposal also calls for Fontanero Street to be downsized to one lane in each direction from Cascade Avenue to El Paso Street, and also East Uintah Street from east of North Wahsatch Avenue to the Shooks Run bridge. Loevy said Fontanero is included to accommodate children attending Steele Elementary School, which is on North Weber Street.

CC undertook a seven-month study of pedestrian, motorist and bicyclist safety and mobility through and around its campus in 2013 and issued a transportation master plan.

"They had aggressive neighborhood meetings three years ago and then stopped," Krager said. "They decided they weren't ready to take on the battle."

CC "continues to be a strong supporter of safety improvements," CC spokeswoman Leslie Weddell said Monday.

Loevy said many streets around town have been reduced from two lanes to one, including Lake Avenue that leads to The Broadmoor hotel and Templeton Gap Road, from Fillmore to Fontanero streets. "You'll see traffic moves along very nicely on those streets," he said.

Krager also favors the plan.

"Our bicycling planner had been looking at putting a bike lane on Cascade, so everything has sort of come together," she said. "I am trying to put together a plan that provides options for everyone and is the best plan to satisfy the neighborhood and the college, as well as provide a good traffic design for the streets in the North End."

Marsh said he and other neighbors are not convinced that tinkering with so many streets leading to downtown will fix the problems.

"I think the expectation is this will drive traffic to I-25, and I'm not sure that's true," he said. "I think it's less than certain we will become an enclave and a backwater neighborhood by doing these kinds of things."

The Old North End Neighborhood Association is collecting comments at oldnorthend.org/pedestrian-and-bicycle-safety-plan, and at Tuesday's meeting.

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