Following a traffic-safety study, Glenwood looks to CDOT, funding

Cassandra Ballard
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
A CDOT snowplow pushes snow from the left lane down Grand Avenue after a storm left multiple inches of snow in Glenwood and surrounding towns.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

With data gathering done, Glenwood Springs now awaits to hear back on a grant — and looks to work with the Colorado Department of Transportation on infrastructure to help make Grand Avenue safer.

Glenwood Springs staff recently completed traffic-safety research and submitted for the grant to the Safe Streets and Roads for All Grant Program. 

Approval for the grant would mean that council will also approve a dedicated match of $120,000 from the city’s General Fund engineering professional services, or Acquisition and Improvements Fund in 2023 for the project, if awarded.

Then, CDOT will decide the fate of Grand Avenue infrastructure.

“I think we have a good relationship with Glenwood (Springs),” said Zane Znamenacek, Colorado Department of Transportation’s traffic and safety engineer for the northwest division.

The grant needs to be approved, but then Glenwood Springs and CDOT are hoping to turn Grand Avenue into more of a “safe main street.”

“What I would like to see happen is that we kind of just go down the path hand-in-hand and then work through what the highest priorities are, what the appropriate countermeasures are to fix what we perceive as the biggest issues and arrive at the same conclusions together,” Znamenacek said. 

City Engineer Terri Partch and CDOT have been focusing on creating more communal safe streets and making Grand one of them, if the community wants that. 

“I think that those are questions that we can flesh out or should discuss in public meetings,” she said. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, CDOT is more interested in what they call main street design, she said. It’s where that term comes from. They have encouraged communities to apply for this main street funding and safety funding, as well. 

“We’re getting a letter of support for this particular grant,” Partch said. “We got a $1.1 million grant from CDOT to put in these kinds of improvements on Sixth Street. I think we as a community need to decide, you know, what our highest values are, and what makes sense from a project standpoint.”

The funding is to make Sixth Street more communal by deliberately taking out all of that asphalt on this street between Laurel and Pine, putting in bike lanes, wider sidewalks and landscaping strips. Diagonal parking will be replaced with parallel parking, she said. 

“I think there are pluses and minuses, obviously, to all of those projects,” she said. “Will it accommodate as many vehicles? Probably not, (but) will it be a nicer place to walk, to ride your bike for the community as a whole?”

One plan she has to improve rear-end accidents and pedestrian crashes involves changing light signals on Grand Avenue. 

“I would like to consider the idea of removing two of our downtown signals. I’d like to do that for two reasons,” she said. “One, I think that we can smooth the flow through the corridor; without continually stopping and starting, there will be less of an accident rate. For vehicles, we won’t have those rear-end, distracted driving, start-stop accidents, too.”

Taking two traffic lights out could allow pedestrians more time to cross at the remaining two traffic lights, Partch said.

“Or, that we should have a leading pedestrian interval for instance,” she said. “You know, the pedestrians start getting the walk light before vehicles are allowed to move, and you see them better.”

Grand Avenue is a challenge for both CDOT and the city of Glenwood because that’s where much of the traffic for the Roaring Fork Valley bottlenecks, especially at Eighth and Grand,” Znamenacek said.

A leading interval pedestrian walkway has been considered before but was not used because it would currently cause an excess of traffic on Grand Avenue, both Partch and Znamenacek said. CDOT is in charge of all of the traffic lights timing on Grand Avenue, and there is a lot of work that goes into those signal times. 

“They have additional waits for vehicles, and the vehicles end up waiting longer at the signals that are on Grand; and, when vehicles begin to wait longer, there are longer lines of congestion — it backs up further,” Partch said.

Then, people start to use the side roads, causing more congestion in neighborhoods. 

“The timing of the side streets versus the timing of the main line is trying to balance between keeping drivers on the main line and allowing the local traffic to come through on the side streets,” she said. “I feel like CDOT does absolutely the best job that they can in terms of the signal timing. It’s just difficult to get the right balance.”

Znamenacek said that they have weighed the options on changing that light for pedestrians to have their own cross time in the past, but that it would create too much traffic on Grand during rush hour or any other high traffic times. 

There is no way to have signals change to accommodate pedestrians when traffic is low and to accommodate vehicles when traffic is high. 

“We hoped for a long time that there was some kind of magic bullet when it comes to signal timing,” he said. “I envisioned this future where there’s all these sensors and this big computer mainframe that can constantly tweak timing everywhere. It just doesn’t exist yet.”