New parking garage comes with plans to better manage traffic in downtown Breckenridge | SummitDaily.com

New parking garage comes with plans to better manage traffic in downtown Breckenridge

Eli Pace | epace@summitdaily.com

Anxieties over the new parking garage in downtown Breckenridge adding to traffic problems in an area already notorious for them have not gone unnoticed among town officials, even as they push forward with a project to build a 400-space structure at Tiger Dredge and F Lot.

The site selected for the new parking garage sits between Washington Avenue and Village Road with South Park Avenue to the west and the Blue River by the Riverwalk Center on the east. Town council landed on the location for its potential to increase parking with limited traffic impacts, great walkability to the downtown core, a magnitude of uses and the overall project cost, town staff said.

However, not everyone is seeing it the same way.

"Due to the current traffic congestion and traffic noise on Park Avenue, we are opposed to a multilayer parking structure across from our property," wrote one man who owns a condo on South Park Avenue in a letter addressed to Breckenridge town staff.

Others have voiced similar concerns, saying that when Breckenridge Ski Resort stops running for the day, gridlock often brings South Park Avenue to a standstill.

"Any and all nights during the winter season the amount of traffic that is on Park from the hours of 3-5 p.m. is so backed up that we sit in our living room and comment that we are so happy we are not driving through town," wrote another woman, who also has a condo along the route, a state-controlled highway.

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Addressing some of those concerns, town manager Rick Holman has offered details of the town's plan to ease traffic congestion at least twice in recent weeks, including the planning commission meeting on March 6 and during last Tuesday's assembly of Breckenridge Town Council.

Most notably, he said, the project depends on the construction of a new roundabout at South Park Avenue and Village Road, other pedestrian improvements and moves designed to reduce the average number of daily trips in and out of F Lot, such as the elimination of free parking.

"I know we have people from the community here, and there's a concern we've heard — and we've heard it … that we're adding extra cars into an area of town that's already a congested area," Holman acknowledged at Tuesday's town council meeting.

In response, the town manager reassured people that Breckenridge has been working on this project for at least the last three years, a traffic plan is included as part of it, and nothing here "was not done in a vacuum."

Altogether, the new structure is expected to house 406 additional parking spaces with 246 more on redesigned Tiger Dredge and F Lot surface lots, resulting in a net gain of 267 additional parking spaces.

As for access, the roundabout at South Park Avenue and Four O'Clock Road is being designed as the primary entrance for the parking garage, with drivers coming in through Tiger Dredge, much the same way they do today.

At the south end of F Lot, a new roundabout at South Park Avenue and Village Road will work as a secondary entrance, once it's complete.

Work on the roundabout will begin only after the parking structure is built, and F Lot, which will be used to stage construction for the parking garage, won't reopen until the roundabout is complete.

The two projects are intertwined, Holman explained, and the new roundabout will complement the one at Four O'Clock Road, which was built last summer. With both roundabouts functioning, he said, that should help improve traffic flow on South Park Avenue, thus easing congestion and gridlock there, especially when the ski resort lets out. Construction of the new roundabout is slated for 2020.

One big problem facing South Park Avenue, Holman continued, is the large number of pedestrian crossings that slow vehicle traffic. Quantifying it, studies have shown an average of 1.4 vehicles is currently entering F Lot for every available parking space in the afternoon hours, Holman said.

He attributed many of those trips to skier pick-ups and drop-offs, and in an effort to better manage that foot traffic, he said F Lot will be gated, and once the parking garage is built, open only to people who've paid.

"To enter F Lot will be the same as entering the parking structure," Holman said, explaining that by cutting down the pick-ups and drop-offs, some traffic should be taken out of the equation.

Additionally, the town is looking to better manage vehicle traffic during peak times by offering price incentives for drivers who leave during off hours, rather than at peak times. If someone were to leave after peak times, for example, the town could greatly reduce the price of parking, instead of charging that person the full rate, he said.

For Councilman Mike Dudick, there's good reason to think this could work.

"I think that what we learned with paid parking is that for 50 cents for one hour, we can manipulate people's behavior," he said.

The town is still thinking of how to best "complete" the area between Village Road and South Main Street on South Park Avenue, according to Holman, who described it as another important piece to ease the congestion.

At the same time, a new transit center is planned for the southwest corner of the site, existing trail connections will be boosted, and an outdoor, covered space dedicated to bike storage has been included in the designs.