Estes OKs plans for traf­fic loop down­town

Project is in­tended to de­crease con­ges­tion and in­crease ac­cess to RMNP

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Saja Hindi

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.

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