We’d like to share with you this editorial by Town Administrator Frank Lancaster, as seen in local newspapers

(You can find this posts, and comments on the whole idea also on facebook: link here)

Downtown Estes Loop project kicks off with Oct. 8 open houses
By Town Administrator Frank Lancaster

Whether speaking with guests or residents, there are three common issues everyone wants to see addressed: the traffic downtown, parking challenges, and the wind. There’s not much we can do about the wind, but the other two items are high priorities, and we’re about to embark on a major effort to address the downtown traffic with the “Downtown Estes Loop” road realignment project.

Traffic along Elkhorn Avenue, for almost nine months of the year, is pretty bad. In the peak of the summer, cars can back up east of the Estes Park Visitor Center on U.S. 34 and to the Highway 7 intersection on U.S. 36. This frustrates visitors and residents alike, causes stress for drivers, and compromises our air quality. The number of cars on Elkhorn Avenue degrades the visitor experience for drivers and pedestrians, and causes many locals to avoid the area entirely. These issues have been reinforced over and over again in our resident surveys and guest surveys. Because of Estes Park’s topography there aren’t a lot of options for improving traffic flow, but some alternatives were identified through the 2003 Estes Valley Transportation Study. Then, a unique opportunity presented itself in early 2013 in the form of the Federal Lands Access Program Grants (FLAP.) These are federal funds set aside to improve access to Federal land (like Rocky Mountain National Park). Learning of this potential funding source prompted us to actually consider some of the very costly alternatives we had identified.

We presented several options for transportation and transit improvements during public meetings in March of 2013, including building a parking structure/transit hub downtown, a one-way couplet creating a loop through downtown, and a two-way option to fully relocate U.S. 36 through downtown. The public weighed in on these concepts and the one-way couplet design was the most favored option for traffic improvements, as well as a strong contender for the grant funding.

To briefly explain this concept, Elkhorn Avenue would become one-way from Riverside Drive west to Moraine Avenue. Traffic heading to the national park will still turn onto Moraine from Elkhorn, where Moraine would be a one-way street heading south to the bend at the Donut Haus. Traffic coming into Town on U.S. 36/Moraine Avenue from the national park would travel one way down West Riverside Drive, crossing the Big Thompson River at a new bridge at Ivy Street, and then merge into East Riverside Drive before joining Elkhorn Avenue. The loop would be part of CDOT’s state highway system. This option is expected to increase traffic flows by about 40 percent, according to engineering studies, by making the intersection at Moraine and Elkhorn more efficient and increasing the movement of the traffic.

Based on this concept, the Town was awarded $13 million in FLAP funds for the project. At the same time, Elkhorn Avenue from Moraine Avenue west to Wonderview Avenue/U.S. 34 will become a Town rather than a State highway, through a process called “devolution.” In exchange, as part of the RAMP program, CDOT will pay the Town $4.2 million to take over West Elkhorn Avenue, and this money will be the local match for the FLAP grant to fund the project at an estimated $17.2 million.

It’s important to note that Elkhorn and Moraine are currently not Town-owned roads, but part of the state highway system which leads to Federal land. The Town’s partners for this project, therefore, are the Federal Highway Administration – Central Federal Lands Highway Division and CDOT. Only together can we take this step to improving Estes Park’s traffic situation.

It’s also important to note that while the funding to help with our traffic needs is available to us, we’re still working with a concept that’s open for your comments. Your opinions matter and we need your involvement. The first step is to conduct public meetings and examine alternatives to the concept proposed during the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study process. Your input is critical at this stage. The final design will be dependent on what comes out of this study and public input, so this is the time to get involved and voice your opinions and ideas.

The first public open houses are scheduled for October 8 at the Estes Park Museum. By letter, we’re inviting downtown residents and businesses to drop in from 12 to 2 p.m. The general public is invited to a separate open house 4-6 p.m. Agency staff and consultants will host various stations explaining project history, timeline, public process and information sources. After these meetings we will develop stakeholder groups to interact with project team throughout the study, with focuses on residential/neighborhood, economic/businesses, history/environmental, technical/utilities, and multi-modal transportation issues.

You can expect more public discussion in the future, too.

The project team is developing a website at www.downtownestesloop.com where you can find updates, request email updates or submit comments. Please check this site frequently; we hope to have it ready very soon.To sign up for the project email list or submit a comment, please contact the project team at info@downtownestesloop.com or 970-480-7045.
This will be the biggest change to downtown since the enhancements made by the Estes Park Urban Renewal Authority in the wake of the Lawn Lake Flood, creating the Riverwalk and the downtown streetscapes. We need and want your help and involvement to make this project successful in meeting the community needs.

And if you have any ideas to help with that #$%* wind in the winter time, let us know that too!


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