City unveils progress on updated transportation master plan, highlighting important infrastructure projects |

City unveils progress on updated transportation master plan, highlighting important infrastructure projects

Traffic backs up along Lincoln Avenue as it enters downtown Steamboat Springs in August 2019. The city is requesting public feedback on transportation issues and solutions to inform an operating plan that will help to set priorities for the next 10 to 20 years.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs’ growing population and increased tourism is putting stress on the local transportation system, and city leaders are halfway through the process of creating an updated transportation master plan, which includes improvements to roads, bike paths and sidewalks.

It’s the city’s goal to update the current transportation master plan by evaluating existing transportation issues, developing solutions and examining funding and construction priorities for the next 20 years. That update comes as many of the current master plan’s projects have been completed, and conditions have changed during the years.

City engineer Ben Beall led a presentation for Steamboat Springs City Council in mid-September that detailed the progress made toward an updated master plan.

“It will provide us a guide over the next 10 to 20 years in terms of our planning for infrastructure enhancements related to transportation,” Beall said.

According to Beall, a transportation master plan is necessary because a growing population, more businesses and increased tourism are putting pressure on the current transportation system.

Colorado civil engineering company Felsburg Holt and Ullevig created a transportation and mobility analysis for the city in 2003. It was adopted as part of the city’s area community plan and has since become the de facto transportation master plan for the past two decades, according to city staff.

A goal is to develop a plan that would include the different forms of transportation in a way that functions effectively and complementary, according to city staff. That combines improvements to roadway, pedestrian, bicycle and transit systems. Each of those points will also consider accessibility, environmental impact and quality of life components.

Toole Design, a Denver-based architecture firm, has been contracted by the city to lead the plan’s development at a cost of about $170,000.

Using input from the public and stakeholders, a draft multimodal plan has been created to determine which projects are most important to the future of Steamboat’s transportation network.

To those efforts, the development team created seven principles that will guide prioritization of projects, including safety; accessibility and inclusion; economic vitality; environmental sustainability; community and quality of life; multimodal connectivity; and public health and active living.

Among the many project recommendations, the development team identified 26 corridors and 27 spots for improvement, including 21 recommended bike lane projects and four underpass projects.

Courtesy/City of Steamboat Springs

Two of the projects highlighted include an upgrade to the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and Shield Drive, which features installation of signs, markings and median, and the creation of a Fifth Street Bikeway, from Lincoln Avenue to Pine Street.

Full implementation of the updated master plan would cost $157 million.

“We recognize a plan can’t just be a wish list of projects, it needs to have an element of groundedness,” Beall said.

Courtesy/City of Steamboat Springs

During the process of updating the master plan, statistics were compiled showing how much traffic has increased in the past couple of decades. One major find is that traffic along U.S. 40 has seen an average growth of 2% each year since 1993, according to the city.

In an online survey completed by 296 local residents, it was found that most drive to work daily in the winter, but driving rates decrease in the summer. Survey participants also indicated they feel much more comfortable driving than using other modes of transportation. Though, it was indicated that a large number of people would be more likely to walk or ride a bike if they felt safer doing so.

Courtesy/City of Steamboat Springs

Some of the biggest issues facing Steamboat’s transportation system, according to those surveyed, were too much traffic, not enough parking and poor sidewalk connectivity. Many indicated that bike infrastructure was also lacking. Respondents believed the city should keep building out the bike network, providing transit service and encouraging active transportation.

Based on historic funding levels during the past five years, the city spends roughly $4 million to $6 million annually on transportation network enhancement projects, according to staff. Various sources of funding are made available for such projects including building use and excise tax, gas tax, building permit fees, sales tax transfers and more. That’s in addition to the investment in local infrastructure by the Colorado Department of Transportation, funds not controlled by the city.

Council Member Lisel Petis suggested the master plan should align with the ongoing discussion on behalf of the city’s recently implemented innovative transportation task force.

Beall said that presents both a challenge and an opportunity.

“We do have two great groups that can help inform some of those projects,” Beall said.

And there is some overlap in some of the more grandiose transportation ideas, he added. But some of the projects worked on by the task force would likely be in the short-term and far outside the 10- to 20-year plan for some of the master plan’s projects, Beall said.

One of Petis’ concerns was sticking with the “straight letter” of the plan and ensuring that whatever transportation solutions come out of the city’s task force not be excluded in the master plan. 

Next steps will be for the development team to finalize project maps and lists, prioritize projects, create an implementation strategy and conduct a second round of community engagement.

Staff members, along with the plan development team, expect to return in the spring to further review and adopt a final master plan.

To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email

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