Estes OKs plans for traffic loop downtown
Project is intended to decrease congestion and increase access to RMNP
Driving through downtown Estes Park could look very different in five years than it does today.
The town’s Board of Trustees voted Tuesday by a 4-3 count to move forward with plans for the “Downtown Estes Loop,” a project intended to decrease congestion problems in downtown and improve access to Rocky Mountain National Park.
An environmental study was completed, and the design of the project was determined to be a “one-way couplet,” a loop through downtown Estes Park.
The town is spearheading the project in partnership with the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Central Federal Lands Highway Division. Funding will come from the Federal Lands Access Program and state transportation budgets; however, the full federal share from the $17.2 million project awards won’t be available for five years.
CDOT spokesman Jared Fiel said town officials are working to try to get that money earlier.
As part of the environmental study, issues such as flood flows and floodplain boundaries were addressed. Town officials also were looking at a parking structure/transit center as part of the project, but officials said the project team’s analysis showed the structure doesn’t fit the project’s purpose or extent of need. So, its construction won’t necessarily be part of this particular project.
The project focuses on three primary roadways: Elkhorn Avenue, Moraine Avenue and Riverside Drive. Each would be turned into one-way roads.
The next steps for the town include preparing final designs and acquiring rights of way with tentative construction to begin in 2021.
Mayor Todd Jirsa voted against the project — not because he opposes the improvements but because it doesn’t follow the recommendations of a committee of experts who developed a vision for Estes Park and the downtown area in the coming years.
“Their goal was to provide
some ideas and solutions for the next 20 years,” Jirsa said. “It was my opinion ... that the loop was not consistent with those recommendations and vision.”
One of those inconsistencies he cited was the committee’s recommendation that U.S. 34 and U.S. 36 traffic shouldn’t go through the town’s main intersection. The recommendation was a bypass around it.
Other recommendations from the committee, Jirsa said, included using Wonderview Avenue as the main access to getting traffic to the north entrance of the park and directing more traffic onto Riverside for park access (avoiding the downtown intersection) and to close access to Cleave Street and Bighorn Avenue to reduce the traffic coming onto Elkhorn Avenue and Moraine Avenue.
Still, Jirsa recognizes the project is moving forward.
His idea is to try to implement some of the shortterm solutions and recommendations from the committee until funding comes in for the Downtown Estes Loop project.
Trustee Patrick Martchink voted in favor of the project because, he said, it means some improvements are being made.
However, Martchink acknowledged the loop isn’t necessarily the best solution in the long run.
For more information, go to downtownestesloop.com.