Eagle wants help creating ‘grand plan’ for Grand Avenue
Initiative asks public to share thoughts, ideas for travel corridor improvements
For several Thursdays, people have been meeting along Grand Avenue in Eagle, putting on safety vests and walking the busy, noisy road to share thoughts about its shortcomings and ideas on how to fix them.
From traffic to missing infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists and a lackluster streetscape, there seem to be plenty of opportunities for the town to improve upon the not-so-grand Grand Avenue, its main local thoroughfare.
It’s a 1.6-mile stretch of Highway 6 that the Colorado Department of Transportation turned over to the town a few years ago for the town to operate and maintain. And the walking tours are just one way for people to share ideas for a corridor planning initiative the town launched in October to develop an actionable improvement plan for the road.
The $650,000 planning initiative is still in its first phase, focused on information gathering, research and public input. Renderings of potential design concepts and improvement proposals are expected to follow later this summer, and people will also be asked to weigh in on those.
Town officials and planners say they want to hear from anyone and everyone, ranging from local residents and business and property owners to commuters who use the road.
“The town is going into this project with a blank slate,” said Bill Shrum, assistant town manager. “That’s exactly why this phase is so important. We need to hear from everybody to really understand the uses this road has, and how it impacts people.”
While the walking tours are helping provide ideas for town officials and planners, they’re also helping spread the word about the ongoing initiative.
Other people in town have seen the brightly-clad groups walking, stopped to ask what they’re doing, and learned more about the initiative, said Martha Miller, an Eagle resident and retired CDOT traffic engineer who is serving as chairwoman of a stakeholder committee the town formed for the project.
People can also share their thoughts online, even link them up to particular points on an interactive map of the corridor.
The goal for this first phase of the initiative is a thorough understanding of who Grand Avenue serves, and how it could better serve them and the town. It’s a big and multi-faceted question.
Grand Avenue sees about 17,000 vehicles per day at the western end of Eagle, near Sylvan Lake Road — a total that rises to about 28,000 near the intersection with Capitol Street. Traffic volumes are projected to double, if not nearly triple, at some unknown time in the future as the towns of Eagle and Gypsum continue to grow in decades to come.
“We want to do this once, do this right, and do this in a way that’s going to work for 50 years,” Shrum said of the planning initiative and the corridor improvements to follow.
Improving Grand Avenue in a way that balances the needs of its many different users is expected to be one of the initiative’s biggest challenges.
There are a mix of businesses along the road to consider, as well as residents in adjacent neighborhoods and the downtown district on Broadway.
Commuters also use the road. That includes the roughly three-quarters of Eagle residents who work in other parts of the county, as well as the 85% of the town’s workforce that commutes into town. There’s also traffic to and from Eagle County Regional Airport and contractor yards in the town of Gypsum.
That’s not to mention the needs of local pedestrians and bicyclists, the impact of the railroad tracks that run through town, and the desire among some to better link Eagle’s neighborhoods and downtown to the Eagle River and recreation amenities on its northern bank.
“We’re trying to get as much input as we can right now from as many different users as we can, so we hear all the issues,” Miller said of the initiative’s first phase. “It’s so important to think about all the users, whether it’s an older couple just trying to walk along the corridor to a local business or to a bus stop, a contractor trying to get up valley for a day’s work, or a commuter who works in the ski area.”
The town of Eagle contracted with Zehren and Associates, of Avon, to help lead the planning initiative. The firm has assembled a multi-disciplinary team including traffic and civil engineers, economists, land use planners, mobility experts, urban designers and landscape architects to help look at the corridor from a wide variety of angles.
Pedro Campos, a landscape architect at Zehren and the project manager, said the team has already gotten a lot of ideas. It’s hoping to get significantly more input in the weeks leading up to June 1, when it will present to the Eagle Town Council and potentially start to shift more into the initiative’s second phase, and putting pencil to paper to sketch out ideas for possible improvements.
Some ideas pitched so far for Grand Avenue include gateways for each end of Eagle, measures to improve traffic safety and flow, and improved landscaping, lighting, crosswalks and infrastructure for bicyclists and people walking.
Other suggestions have focused on what to do with the unusual intersections along Grand Avenue, where two roads from Eagle’s grid join it at nearly the same location. One idea is to close some of the awkward intersections along Grand to make more space for parking, sidewalks or events — similar to a pilot project that town officials and downtown businesses are considering expanding for Second Street, where the street is closed for Bonfire Brewing to have outdoor seating.
So far in the planning initiative, there’s been a general acknowledgment that Grand Avenue could be a little more grand in its appearance, character and functionality, and the important thing, Campos and Shrum and Miller said, is for people to weigh in to help guide the road’s future.
“We’re at a critical stage of the project in collecting feedback on what works well, what doesn’t work well, what are the aspirations for the future, and what are the specific things that need to be addressed,” Campos said.
For more information about the project and how to get involved, visit the website eaglecolorado.mysocialpinpoint.com/grand-avenue-ideas-wall/grandavehome.
Tom Lotshaw can be reached at email@example.com.