Another school lot access and overpass possible too
By Mark Reaman
The town is heading toward a roundabout at the entrance to Crested Butte. While construction is not expected to start until at least 2022, the town will begin the early stages of securing outside funding, looking at an increase in the town’s street and alley mill levy and determining the best timeline to refigure the intersection at Sixth Street and Red Lady Avenue.
In a 90-minute work session on Monday, February 1, town planner Michael Yerman and representatives of JVA traffic consultants and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) presented a proposal for a roundabout along with a traditional traffic alternative with more turning lanes.
The roundabout was the “preferred” option for future work at the intersection. Safety and long-term planning were cited as major positives of a roundabout.
“It should be very clear that this is a very conceptual idea at the moment,” said Yerman. “There are five to seven years of planning involved and it will eat up about 10 years of your transportation budget.”
Joel Price of JVA pointed out that the extensive utility network located beneath the land at the intersection area moved the project a bit north.
A five-legged roundabout would include both Seventh Street and Red Lady Avenue having separate entrances onto the roundabout. The western side of Red Lady would have the block by the Old Town Inn become one-way, leading out to the roundabout and the highway.
As part of the project, a school access lane into the parking lot would be included before hitting the roundabout while entering town from the south. The entrance would also be used for summer special event parking. A pedestrian/bike/ski overpass south of the roundabout over the highway is also being considered as part of the town perimeter trail.
Kari McDowell of JVA gave a history of roundabouts and explained their safety benefits. She also showed statistics that indicated, while people were wary of roundabouts before they were built, after construction the favorability ratings generally skyrocketed.
The Crested Butte roundabout would be designed to let vehicles travel at a maximum speed of 18 miles per hour, but generally they would be going a lot slower.
Roundabouts can provide for safe pedestrian crossings and McDowell said given its location, this one could be used to make an entry feature for the town. Art could be placed in the middle of the roundabout, for example.
Councilman Roland Mason asked about plowing issues. Yerman said technology and design is changing every year. “Curb details change and plowing is being handled better,” he said. “My gut tells me that by 2020 it will be even better.”
McDowell said places like Carbondale have included some tweaks designed to make plowing better.
“There will certainly be some snow management issues that come with a roundabout,” said Yerman. “We will have to work those out.”
The roundabout would cost $2.1 million. The school access lane is about $400,000 and that parking lot would also serve as a special event parking area, particularly in the summer. The overpass would add $800,000.
Town staff is looking at various mill levy options. Ideally, the town would receive a state CDOT grant to pay for most of the project but a town match of at least 25 percent is expected. To raise that match money, the town is considering a gradual increase to the street and alley mill levy.
Currently at eight mills, the idea—if the CDOT grant is awarded—is to raise the mill levy to nine by 2019. On an $800,000 home, that would increase the tax from $541 per year to $573. Commercial property would take a bigger hit. For a business currently paying $1,972 annually, the increase would add $116, equaling $2,088 a year.
If the town does not get the CDOT grant and wants to pursue the roundabout, it would look at a bond or a more significant increase in the mill levy to more than 10 mills. “That is why we want to focus on the planning process now and pursue the CDOT grant option,” said Yerman.
Mayor Glenn Michel said it was important to let the public know what costs would be incurred from the project.
Councilman Jim Schmidt asked if it would be less expensive to hire a traffic cop to work the busy times at the intersection.
Yerman admitted that could work in the short term and during school hours. “But it’s not just busy when school is starting or letting out anymore,” he said. “As the years go by and the intersection gets busier, a traffic cop won’t solve the long-term problem.”
Yerman said the roundabout was the option preferred by the staff, consultants and CDOT. The council agreed that should be the direction of the town. Staff will begin gathering more information and start moving ahead to prepare for the project. Funding sources will be explored, as will various funding scenarios. It is expected that once construction begins, the roundabout can be completed in one summer building season. But that won’t happen for at least five more years.