Breckenridge roundabout and trolley updates hope to lessen congestion woes
The town of Breckenridge plans on diving headfirst into several parking and transportation projects in the coming months. While the process will be slow going, staff and council members are hoping that it will improve the town’s congestion woes for the better.
“We want people to know that we are doing these projects,” said Kim Dykstra, the director of communications for the town. “We know the product’s going to be great once it’s finished.”
UP, UP AND AWAY
During the work session on Tuesday, council members got an update on the gondola study from SE Group, a strategic planning firm. The study was approved by the council during the retreat meeting on Feb. 14 to see if a gondola system would work as an effective mode of transportation in town. Ken Sharp, a principal with the firm, and project manager Gabby Voelle proposed breaking the project into separate phases, starting with a planning phase, and then a development phase. At the end of the first phase, council could vote to continue with the project or to cancel it.
The cost of the gondola was a concern. It was estimated that the gondola could cost between $800 to $1,000 per hour to run. Additionally, each gondola station would cost $2 million to build. Sharp said that SE Group built the presentation with another consultant, LSC Transportation. Both groups would work together to gather data on bus ridership and where some of the most popular destinations are, in the hopes of finding an optimal spot for the gondola in town.
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After discussion on the presentation, council approved continuing the study.
Councilwoman Elisabeth Lawrence said that the council needs to get all the facts on the gondola to make sure it’s a realistic plan for the town. Her hope is that the study can help council weigh costs on whether it’s effective as a method of transportation.
Starting in late April, the town will begin construction on the first of several roundabouts, concentrating on Park Avenue. Construction on the roundabout at Four O’Clock Road had been delayed because the town needed to have an engineering study done. The study is a requirement from the Colorado Department of Transportation, which operates Colorado State Highway 9.
Road closures for the roundabout at the Park and Four O’Clock intersection are scheduled to start on April 24 and run through June 30. Park will be closed from Ski Hill Road to the F Lot entrance. Detour maps can be found on the town’s website.
The council is hopeful that roundabouts will help to lessen congestion that often backs up traffic on Park Avenue. During their retreat session on Feb. 14, the council gave the go ahead to start planning on six roundabouts.
“It’s going to be messy for a while with all the construction,” said Hal Vatcher, a Breckenridge resident who has been on the Parking Task Force for more than a year.
He added that he hopes residents will focus on the end game, which will help traffic issues in Breck in the long run.
Lawrence said that in the summer of 2018 the council is hoping to start working on two roundabouts at the same time, adding that there is a small window for construction.
“The summer season is so short here, we really need to take advantage of that,” she said.
PUT ON HOLD
Congestion throughout the town takes up manpower from the Breckenridge Police Department. Officers have been working on various problem-solving and community policing projects, many of them involving traffic and pedestrian congestion on Main Street, as well as safety assessments to help prevent accidents, according to the department’s annual report.
Breckenridge Police Chief Dennis McLaughlin estimated that for 30 days out of the year the force has to hold all calls because officers are directing backed-up traffic.
The annual report also talked about speeding issues on French Street. Residents of the area told town staff that parking in the area has increased since the start of paid parking in the town. The jump in the number of cars has made it difficult for some homeowners to park near their homes or use their driveways. The town held a meeting with residents in order to start rectifying the issue.
“We’ve impacted them, no question,” Vatcher said. “Now how do we solve it?”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe said that local meetings are an important part of keeping open communication with Breckenridge residents. The town also recently put together an animated video ad with updates on parking projects in the works.
The video highlights the additional trolley that council approved, extending downtown service. Council has also approved building at least 750 new parking spots throughout town. A majority of these spots will be part of a parking structure at the Ice Rink Lot. Vatcher estimates that the structure will have at least 400 new parking spots. Proposals for the ice rink structure are due to the town by Friday.
Wolfe agreed that construction for the various projects is going to create some difficulties within in the town, and said the council didn’t want there to be any surprises for locals.
“We’re going to go through tough times to get to a better place,” she said. “We are making good progress.”