Downtown traffic snarls ahead
River Walk reaches cost-sharing agreement with Steamboat
By Brandon Gee (Contact)
Friday, September 19, 2008
Beginning Sept. 22, the Yampa River Core Trail will be closed from the Steamboat Springs Community Center to Shield Drive for about two weeks while the city installs a new sanitary sewer interceptor. Detour routes will be provided along U.S. Highway 40.
Steamboat Springs — An assortment of construction projects soon will have major impacts on downtown traffic and the Yampa River Core Trail.
A closure of Yampa Street between Fifth and Sixth streets that began Thursday will continue today and Monday because of a paving project. Also on Monday, Fifth Street between Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street will be reduced to one lane of alternating traffic, also because of paving.
Greg Gunn, construction service foreman for the city of Steamboat Springs, said restricting traffic on Fifth Street is a particular headache because of the Fifth Street Bridge, which does not perfectly align with the road, and because the road is the only downtown access to Howelsen Hill. Gunn and Public Works Director Philo Shelton are encouraging motorists to consider using River Road to access Howelsen Hill on Monday.
“It’s the toughest street in Steamboat to work with because it is an artery to Howelsen Hill,” Gunn said. “You can’t feasibly maintain two ways of travel because then you get to the bridge and there’s a shift. … They can still get flagged through, but expect delays.”
An even larger project on Lincoln Avenue also will begin soon and include storm drainage and sewer improvements.
“It’s planned to be done in mid-November,” Shelton said, “and there will be a lot of traffic impacts.”
Traffic already is impacted at Third Street and Lincoln. City officials and developers of the River Walk development, near that intersection, have reached a cost-sharing agreement approved by the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday. The $4.4 million infrastructure project, of which the city is contributing $1.6 million, will replace an aging sewer interceptor and storm drainage near Third Street and Lincoln Avenue. Gunn said that while the city will maintain two lanes of traffic in each direction on Lincoln Avenue, the turning lane at the intersection will be eliminated. Also, Shelton said the presence of construction alone will cause “rubber-necking” and inevitably slow down traffic.
The storm drainage improvements are the most significant part of the project, Shelton said, and will remap the Spring Creek flood plain. A 9-foot-by-5-foot concrete storm culvert will be installed underneath Lincoln Avenue and Third Street, replacing an older and smaller culvert. With the current culvert, Shelton said, Lincoln Avenue and several surrounding properties are vulnerable to a 100-year flood of Spring Creek.
“When this gets remapped, it will keep the flood plain in the creek,” Shelton said. “Right now, it’s limited by the box culvert. It’s not large enough. … (The improvement) protects our road. Also, all affected properties get removed from the flood plain.”
River Walk has not yet been granted a final development plan by the city, but has been approved for infrastructure work such as the sewer and storm drainage improvements. City planner Jonathan Spence said he expects developers to submit a final development plan this fall. Acting City Manager Wendy DuBord said the timing of the project is influenced by the Colorado Department of Transportation’s planned 2009 overhaul of Lincoln Avenue through downtown.
“They wouldn’t be doing this now … if we weren’t trying to get out of CDOT’s way,” DuBord said.
“This is a big investment up front for the developer,” Shelton added.