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Taming traffic: City seeks feedback on transportation issues, solutions

Traffic backs up along Lincoln Avenue as it enters downtown Steamboat Springs in August. 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 — City officials are seeking public feedback on updates to the Steamboat Springs transportation master plan to address current issues and long-term needs for local roads and trails. 

The initiative is a way to evaluate existing transportation problems, develop solutions and plan future projects for the next 20 years. It concerns all modes of transportation, from cars to bikes to pedestrians. 

The current master plan guiding transportation objectives in Steamboat was adopted in 2004, according to city engineer Ben Beall. 

“That plan is starting to get dated, so we wanted to hit refresh,” Beall said.

To provide feedback, people can fill out the online survey or use the digital map to mark a transportation issue and offer ideas at particular locations across the city. With the digital map, users can see other people’s comments and ‘like’ the ones they support, similar to social media.

These have come as creative solutions to getting public feedback amid the limitations posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The city also has hosted several virtual Q&A sessions on the transportation plan. 

City officials constantly evaluate ways to make it easier and safer for people to get around Steamboat, Beall said.

Worsening traffic through downtown and along U.S. Highway 40 have been among the top concerns of residents and those who commute to Steamboat for years as the area continues to grow. To that end, Beall said the city has been evaluating the feasibility of a bypass to direct more vehicles away from downtown and of expanding capacity on the west of town, which often gets congested during rush hours.  

One of the recommendations on the digital map suggested expanding bus service with the Steamboat Springs Transit system along Tamarack Drive and Hilltop Lane. This would encourage more residents to take the bus rather than their own vehicles, the commenter said, particularly during the winter months when people are less likely to ride their bikes. 

Among the positive feedback the city has received includes the availability of the free bus system and the condition of the roads. 

“It’s important to hear what we are doing well in addition to the challenges and solutions we might want to look at for the future,” Beall said.

Part of the planning process involves coalescing competing opinions on transportation priorities. For example, some people want to make it easier for cars to move through Steamboat, Beall said, while others want to make the city more bike friendly.

On the online map, a commenter advocated for a pedestrian-only area downtown, highlighting Yampa Street or one of the numbered side streets as possible locations. 

Another commenter wanted to remove portions of the sidewalk that jut into the street at downtown intersections along Lincoln Avenue. These extended curbs, which Beall called bump-outs, are designed to make it safer for pedestrians to cross the street. 

But as the commenter complained, the bump-outs also make it difficult to have room for a right-turn lane. If one vehicle is stopped at the intersection with a red light, it is often too narrow for another vehicle turning right to get around. 

“We have heard about that quite a bit,” Beall said of the bump-out issue. 

Several upcoming transportation projects are in the design stages, according to Beall. One, slated for next year, includes adding a sidewalk along Lincoln Avenue from Indian Trails, across from the Steamboat Springs Transit Center, to Loggers Lane on the west end of town. Others include improvements to multiple intersections along Lincoln Avenue on the west of town, such as where it intersects with Indian Trails and with Downhill Drive. 

Those intersections have grown increasingly busy in recent years with a growing population and more commuters, according to Beall.  

The city is taking public feedback on the online survey and digital map through the end of May, according to Beall. More opportunities for public comment will be available, such as during Steamboat Springs City Council meetings in the fall. 

People with comments or questions may send an email to tmp@steamboatsprings.net or contact Beall at bbeall@steamboatsprings.net.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.


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