Despite Colorado College’s efforts to maintain a safe environment for its student and faculty members, Cascade and Nevada Avenue remain two major obstacles that continually jeopardize safety.
Anyone who has absentmindedly driven on Cascade or Nevada has felt the surge of adrenaline that comes with slamming on the brakes as a CC skateboarder launches into the street. For seven months, CC has investigated the current safety issues associated with this traffic, the most effective and practical forms of improvement, and the impact on the larger Colorado Springs community.
In order for CC to obtain permission to implement their improvement plan, which has yet to be announced, they must pass through three rounds of approval. First, the Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Board must approve the report. CTAB is a panel of 11 members that represent the four City Council Districts in Colorado
The Board is composed of experts in identifying, inspecting, and maintaining the multi-modal transportation systems that exist in the Springs. If CC’s report gains CTAB’s authorization, then it moves on to the planning commission before reaching the highest level of City Council Staff.
During their monthly meeting on May 7, CTAB made a point to discuss how they can most effectively facilitate dialogue between CC and the public throughout this project.
Various members of the community were present, along with representatives of the Transportation Master Plan from CC, including Project Manager Tim Seibert. However, there was little to debate without a complete delineation of CC’s intentions.
After two board members excused themselves from the panel due to a conflict of interest, City Traffic Engineer Kathleen Krueger explained that the discussion was meant to understand the extent to which CTAB will be involved in the later decision-making process. Essentially, the Board sought to agree on their place as a mediator between CC, the public, and higher levels of city group.
“We can become a real important element of the process if we make ourselves that,” a CTAB Board member said.
“It’s a transportation project, and we are the voice of the citizen’s transportation group. We can’t review anything because it hasn’t been officially submitted yet and CC] can still be tweaking or making changes until they officially sign the paper,” Krueger said.
She hopes to shift CC’s Master Transit Plan from a discussion topic to an active order of recommendation in next month’s agenda after receiving the finalized proposal.
“CTAB has no approval authority. We can only recommend or not recommend. When it comes to safety, this is not a referral. That is a professional decision that I have to make as the city engineer,” Krueger said.
This traffic renovation seeks to improve the safety of the community. “CC as a community is not just the rich little kids; it’s a group of people,” a representative from Bicycle Colorado said.
It was clear in the meeting that the new plans would perhaps have the greatest impact on community members.
“Pedestrian traffic is not just for the students. As a member of the community, I attend lectures and events on the campus all the time. Its important as a citizen that this become multi-modal,” Rachel Beck from the downtown working group partnership, said.
Some ideas currently under consideration are an underground tunnel or a pedestrian underpass. A “working group” that was formed specifically for this project suggests reducing congestion on both streets by narrowing the current two-lane traffic to one lane in each direction.
“This problem [was] addressed in 2007, and it went from roundabouts on Cascade to complete craziness. [Ashley Jo1] This institution has no stake in protecting its students. I made a recommendation that they close Nevada to one lane all the way down to Platte Avenue,” a community member living two blocks south of CC said.
He added that CC has done nothing for the safety of their students on Cascade or Nevada.“[CC] just spent 21 million dollars on a new health center. They should be able to find some money for the students’ safety,” he said.
As the process advances, CC has made a conscious and active effort to listen and incorporate the reservations of nearby neighbors. “When CC came to me with this proposition, I told them that they need to view themselves as a piece of a much larger neighborhood,” Krueger said. Thus far, CC has held six meetings with
members of the CC planning committee, outside facilitators, and motivated members of the community.
“We want a very open and transparent process. The meetings have been advertised across the city, and the college has set up a website. Everything is on that website,” Coordinator for public involvement Lisa Bachman said.
[Ashley Jo2] Although numerous community members will argue that these meetings have primarily attracted the people affiliated with CC and residents of the Old North End, CC is doing its best to increase attendance. Hopefully, CTAB will be instrumental in bridging the gap between the school and the public.
Another way in which CC has included the community is through “stakeholders meetings.” The idea is that CC exists as a part of a larger community, and that the ultimate decision should consider each member of that community. Essentially, all residents within a certain radius of the college receive “blue cards” which make them eligible stakeholders.
Other Colorado Springs residents are disgruntled because they perceive a renovation as a burden to the city. “We’re talking about a private institution. CC should handle this themselves rather than make the taxpayers finance it,” one neighbor said.
Whatever conclusions are made regarding pedestrian safety in the CC community will not be determined without robust public involvement. CC has already dedicated a significant amount of time to gauging the neighbor’s opinions and will continue to do so with official, open, and recorded meetings throughout the process.
“CTAB is an excellent vehicle to do public process and facilitate a public process. I think this group is well suited to that. We are in control of our destiny and we have our charter, and its up to us. We are the citizens advisory group. We make those decisions,” Chairperson John Nuwer said.