Road changes ahead for the Old North End 

click to enlarge Kathleen Krager is working with neighborhood interests. - STEPHANIE MASON
  • Stephanie Mason
  • Kathleen Krager is working with neighborhood interests.

Population growth is challenging transportation in lots of Colorado Springs neighborhoods, but growing pains in the high-end Old North End, just to the north of downtown, appear to be particularly acute.

The website representing the successor to the neighborhood association, a nonprofit corporation simply called the Old North End Neighborhood (ONEN), states, "[H]istoric neighborhoods cannot remain healthy if the city continues to trample on the fundamental principles of residential use with its traffic policies."

Though the city is seeking ways to ease transportation gridlock, ONEN has a history of resisting changes that it doesn't agree with. In 2016, it raised hell over a proposed bus route modification that would have brought 15-minute bus service to Nevada Avenue through the neighborhood. After several meetings with neighborhood residents, the city agreed to split the route into two, offering staggered buses every 30 minutes on both Nevada Avenue and Weber Street on the portion of the route that travels through the neighborhood.

The Old North End has also been assertive in forging deals with Penrose Hospital dictating that their employees may not park on the public streets in the neighborhood.

ONEN does want changes to local roads, writing on its site that, "The best thing Colorado Springs can do for the long term is to enhance its older neighborhoods, via sensible traffic policy, so that they can continue to serve their traditional roles in the city."

So what changes does ONEN want to see? While representatives didn't return calls, a quick glance at the neighborhood's draft "Street Safety Plan" shows that it approves of a split bus route, wants lower speed limits (particularly on roads that buses run on), prefers fewer lanes on roads, and desires added bike lanes, road upgrades on Weber Street and safety improvements on Nevada Avenue.

After coming out on the losing end of head-butting battles with the neighborhood, the city appears to be taking ONEN's recommendations quite seriously. Ahead of a meeting with the neighborhood to discuss options, a city news release noted that it hoped "to create a more pleasant residential neighborhood while accommodating existing and future traffic."

During a Dec. 7 meeting at the City Auditorium, residents, everyday commuters and Colorado College students and professors listened intently to City Traffic Engineer Kathleen Krager.

"It is a neighborhood where we need to make some changes and we need to make them very thoughtfully," Krager said.

Buses, road dieting, semi truck routes, bike lanes, Colorado College pedestrian safety and reduced speed limits were the touched-on topics of the evening. While most subjects were mere introductions to possible changes, several plans will be implemented soon.

The most immediate action taking place is a reduction of speed limits on the arterial streets — one of ONEN's asks. Streets previously 35 mph will be reduced to 30 mph. Proper signage for residential streets will restate the existing speed limit of 25 mph.

In addition, fewer semi trucks will travel North Nevada Avenue, which is being taken off the city's truck route — another ONEN request. Delivery and pickup trucks will still be permitted on the street.

Following these changes, center left turn lanes will be added from Weber Street and Wahsatch Avenue at Uintah Street in the coming spring — yet another item alluded to in the ONEN plan.

The almost-full auditorium was mostly quiet while these changes were announced — worth noting considering that ONEN transportation meetings have been known to be animated.

This was the second of several transportation meetings for the neighborhood improvements. The third meeting will take place sometime in January; time, date and place to be announced two weeks prior. At the third meeting, bike routes, road dieting and pedestrian safety are the primary topics.

"We have streets in the Old North End that are truly wider than they need to be and have more lanes for traffic than are needed," Krager said. "What we need to look at is that we really do need [bike routes]."

Colorado College Special Projects Coordinator Zak Kroger said that both student and driver safety is a primary concern. He said it is difficult to keep track of, but at least four people, three cyclists and one pedestrian, have been hit this year while crossing the street.

"My co-workers and I have tried to get the messaging out to students about what the laws are with certain roads, and to make sure that they know that a number of people do get hit each year," Kroger said. "Lots of cars go up and down Cascade and Nevada, and all it takes is one second of not paying attention to end up in the hospital, and potentially [get] a ticket for jaywalking."

A new pedestrian stoplight at Nevada Avenue near the East Campus residences has helped, though it has caused some confusion for pedestrians and drivers. According to Kroger, the light is "something the college has been asking for for a long time."

Krager said that she knows the number of crossings on Cascade Avenue for the college will be reduced from four to two, but it is still being decided exactly what that will look like.

Bus service changes are under consideration, though Krager mentioned that while city transit professionals will discuss the issue at a future meeting, there will be public involvement before any changes are made.

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