Some residents ‘skeptical’ of Silverthorne’s plans to slow traffic downtown
Highway 9 traffic plan
Below is a list of changes Silverthorne officials are considering to slow speeds and make Highway 9 through town feel more like downtown.
1. Two 11-foot lanes going in each direction on Highway 9
2. One 16-foot raised median and center turn lane
3. Diagonal parking and median on Third Street to create a southern edge to the town core
4. Wide “amenity zones,” or flexible space, with 20-plus feet in some places to support new development with active uses along both sides of Highway 9
5. On-street parallel parking at some locations on Highway 9 and enhanced crosswalks
6. A distinct entry “chicane,” or intentional bend in the road, at Sixth Street and Highway 9 to create “a gateway” to the town core and reduce southbound speeds
7. Enhanced landscaping and bioswales for storm water management and water purification on the east side of the highway
8. A signal light on Highway 9 at Third Street with wide, highly visible crosswalks
9. Gateway/entry features south of Third Street
10. On-street parking on side streets
11. Bicycle facilities on Brian Avenue and Sixth Street
12. Inclusion of new and emerging technologies, as applicable
Split down the middle of the Silverthorne Pavilion, a well-attended community forum on Thursday night focused half the room on a major downtown development and the other half on a closely related Highway 9 traffic plan. Public opinion concerning the overarching goal of the two projects, however, was all over the map.
On one side of the room, representatives of Milender White, the company chosen to pursue the Fourth Street Crossing project, were offering the latest updates on the project that is framed as a major piece of Silverthorne’s future that starts with razing almost everything between Third and Fourth streets, west of Highway 9, for a new mixed-use development.
On the other, town staff and a group of consultants with the Denver-based firm Felsburg Holt & Ullevig were dishing out details about how they plan to knock down traffic speeds on Highway 9 and make the highly traveled route fronting Fourth Street Crossing feel more like a “Main Street.”
“I think it really indicates the interest everybody has in seeing something happen downtown,” said Silverthorne town manager Ryan Hyland of Thursday night’s turnout. “People have been very patient over the years waiting for the delivery of a vibrant downtown.”
Many residents came to the community forum with their own ideas and comment cards filled small wicker baskets about as fast as town staff could empty them.
The town hired the Denver-based consulting firm last summer to help craft a Highway 9 traffic plan and together they’ve been working on it for roughly a year now, according to Silverthorne Public Works director Tom Daugherty. A lot of different ideas have been kicked around and everything will ultimately need Colorado Department of Transportation approval, but Daugherty believes some new ideas would likely emerge from the forum.
During the gathering Holly Buck of Felsburg Holt & Ullevig went down a bullet-point list of 12 recommendations included in the traffic plan and told the crowd that the town and its consultants have considered everything from on-street parking and pedestrian crossings to signal lights and reducing speed limits.
To slow drivers, she said, they plan keep all four lanes on Highway 9 through Silverthorne, but narrow their widths to 11 feet each while reducing the 35-foot median to 16 feet. The highway is quite wide through Silverthorne and with the narrowing there could be more room for improvements like new planters, landscaping, large sidewalks and even patios for potential downtown restaurants, Buck said.
“What you don’t see on state Highway 9 are bike lanes or any kind of a bike facility,” she continued, describing how the planners have heard “pretty loud and clear” that the community wants bike lanes, just not along the highway.
“One of the things we’ve been working with CDOT on is how we can use the road design to really slow people down naturally,” Buck added, referencing a proposed bend in the highway at Sixth Street. The design feature won’t quite slow cars like a roundabout, but would be enough to make most drivers check their speeds. The town also anticipates having new gateway features that alert people coming into town from the north and south ends that they’ve entered a downtown area.
On Third Street, an atypically large right-of-way offers an opportunity to create a “southern edge for the town core,” according to town planners, with a planted median and angled on-street parking. Drivers coming in by way of Kremmling would then know they’ve “entered the town core” simply by looking down Third Street, Buck said.
“We also know that there have been a couple pedestrian and vehicle incidents in the last year so that is a real priority, to make sure that we improve the safety of crossing state Highway 9,” she said.
Hearing the town is looking at parallel parking at select places along Highway 9, one forum attendee was highly “skeptical” drivers won’t have problems pulling in and out of the parking spaces, especially given the high volume of traffic on the highway. In the same vein, a woman told town planners a long line of ideling cars would be a major drawback for anyone trying to enjoy lunch outside a restaurant on the highway.
A couple who live north of the Fourth Street Crossing project also expressed their concerns about how the development might affect traffic, especially since cars are already stacking up for blocks in the direction of their home.
“I don’t think they’re addressing it,” the husband said of the traffic problems on Highway 9. “But they can’t; the problem is I-70. If you can’t get the cars onto I-70 faster … that’s not going to help anything. But I don’t know ( if the town’s plans are) going to hurt anything, either.”
As far as the overall direction of downtown development, “the jury’s still out,” the couple said. They think the concepts are “beautiful,” but said they are holding off final judgment until cost estimates come to light and they better understand how all of these ideas might come to fruition when the town starts moving dirt.
While fielding questions, Hyland acknowledged he’s been hearing a number of concerns recently, mainly over on-street parking and slowing speeds along Highway 9. He said those feelings are natural, but he also hopes that, like the couple has done, people will see the interchange with I-70 as the primary culprit for Silverthorne’s congestion, and not attach those problems to efforts to dramatically remake its downtown area.
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