RIDGWAY – The Colorado Department of Transportation has plans to widen Colo. State Hwy. 62 through downtown Ridgway, and citizens told Town Council at its regular October meeting that they want input in the planning process. Specifically, they want the plan to include bike lanes.
CDOT has scheduled replacing the highway bridge over the Uncompahgre River in 2012, and by 2016 expects to widen Hwy. 62 (Sherman St.) to three lanes, two traffic lanes plus a center turn lane, through town.
Public Works Director Joanne Fagan reported to council on recent meetings with CDOT engineers. The state’s current proposal, she said, included a cross-section that differed “considerably” from the one preferred in the Town’s 2006 Historic Business District Streetscape Plan. That plan had a narrower center turn lane, no bike lanes, and tree-studded landscape strips on both sides of the road between the curbs and the sidewalks.
The Streetscape Plan favored a pedestrian aesthetic. The new CDOT plan, and a majority of comment at the meeting, leaned more toward a bicycle-centric cross-section, with three-foot-wide bike lanes in both directions, which would likely come at the expense of the landscape strips. Parking along the sides of Sherman Street through the historic core would be eliminated in both plans.
Any town council (or citizen) recommendation can only be advisory, however, when it comes to the state highway. As citizen Rodney Fitzhugh pointed out – rightly, in Fagan’s opinion – at the end of the day, CDOT will do what CDOT wants to do.
She hastened to add that “CDOT has asked us to take a seat at the table” regarding the highway improvements. “And they are focused on what they call ‘context-sensitive design’ . . . There is some attempt,” she said, to accommodate the town’s input.
“We’d love to do everything the community wants to do,” Fagan told The Watch. “Bike lanes, parking, landscape strips, wide sidewalks, trees. But we only have 66 feet” of right-of-way to work with.
Randy Charrette, who owns Peak to Peak Bicycles on Sherman St., spoke in favor of bike lanes. “My big thing,” he told The Watch, is “to stress the safety of it,” by separating “the bikes from the big trucks rolling down the highway.” He also said that encouraging alternative transportation – bikes, naturally – would help to offset the loss to downtown businesses of parking along Sherman St.
Council was generally supportive of the bike-lanes plan, with Town Manager Jen Coates noting that CDOT is recommending bike lanes now for all highway improvement projects.
Following discussion with the public, council did have a number of points it would encourage CDOT to consider. The first was to “neck-down” from three lanes to two from Laura St. west to Amelia. There was no need, councilors suggested: Extending the center turn lane, and its thoroughfare feel, all the way through town; reducing the center turn lane from CDOT’s 14 feet to 12 feet (allowing room for a possible raised median and more pedestrian-friendly sidewalks); and, finally, exploring the idea of tree grates in the sidewalks. (CDOT’s plan allowed only for landscape planters, Fagan said, adding that CDOT staffers were concerned that roots and moisture from trees in the ground could undermine the roadbed.)
Council also wanted to recommend colored concrete/stamped concrete crosswalks, as imagined in the Streetscape Plan, for crossings at Lena, Cora and Laura streets.
More discussions with CDOT are planned.
Coates pointed out that while the actual work is still at least six years away, “To CDOT six years is like next week. They work on 50-year plans.”