Breckenridge evaluating plans to improve downtown traffic and pedestrian circulation
The town of Breckenridge is working with Norris Design on a project aimed at improving circulation for cars, bikes and pedestrians downtown by making upgrades to the Blue River Bikeway and Riverwalk.
Elena Scott with Norris Design presented a high-level version of the plan to Breckenridge Town Council at its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 10, in search of feedback on the proposal. Council members looked over an 11-foot map of downtown Breckenridge between N. French Street and S. Park Avenue outlining potential solutions.
The first phase of the project, and the primary focus area, is upgrading the alley that runs between Main Street and N. Park Avenue between Ski Hill Road and Watson Avenue. The alley is frequented by cars, bikes and pedestrians, and it serves as a key access point for many Main Street businesses.
“We’re thinking about economic stimulus and how improvements in these areas can actually help businesses expand or help their operations in some ways,” Scott said in the meeting.
This area creates an awkward split of pedestrians conflicted between walking along Main Street or the Riverwalk, which has led to increased congestion and pedestrians walking in the alley. The plan proposes potential sidewalk expansions, pedestrian bridges and underpasses to improve circulation throughout the downtown area.
Another proposal is some kind of bike plaza so that folks can safely dismount and park their bikes if they want to walk on Main Street, which council was generally supportive of.
“I think that the challenge right now is that the dismount zone is so clearly defined, and it’s just kind of happened,” Scott said. “There’s no destination point where it feels like anything starts or stops.”
Scott said the project is also trying to create east-west pedestrian connections to go from the parking lots and the gondola to Main Street and vice versa, while keeping bike traffic moving north and south. She said it’s important to look at where the town can “push and pull” the physical space it has to make the smartest improvements.
“We’re trying to get these east-west connections to sort of disperse people and give them opportunities,” town Engineer Shannon Smith said in the meeting.
Another consideration that drew conflicting opinions from council is making the portion of the alley between Watson Avenue and Ski Hill Road one way moving toward Watson Avenue. Council was generally supportive of trying this out before the project fully begins to see how it could function, but Mayor Eric Mamula was skeptical of its functionality.
“I think a one-way alley is going to be problematic because it’s going to just keep dumping people into Main Street, which gets completely clogged up,” Mamula said.
Mamula has a strong connection to this alley, as his restaurant is one of several businesses impacted daily by the congestion. He said getting pedestrian and bike traffic out of the alley needs to be a priority.
“This is where somebody is going to get killed,” Mamula said. “… I cannot stress enough that this alley is a terrible, terrible situation between delivery trucks that never park where they’re supposed to, trash trucks that come at the wrong time of the day, people that drive this stretch at 35 or 40 miles an hour. It is nightmarish back there.”
Delivery and trash truck schedules also need to be considered in this alley, as they often contribute to congestion. Mamula said trash trucks currently drive on the Riverwalk too, which he would like to see come to an end.
Another aspect being taken into consideration is the Sawmill parking lot next to the alley. Council members all said it would be worth it to get rid of the middle island that folks park around in this lot and create two parallel rows of parking to give more space in the alley.
The project has taken some inspiration from Fort Collins, as the town reworked its alleys to make them more efficient and appealing.
Council was supportive of coordinating a time to walk through the project area to see and discuss it in real time. The town will also be in communication with business owners that would be impacted by the project to get their feedback.
“We know this impacts way more than just the people in this room,” Smith said.
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