For the last decade the community has seen traffic increase to the point where it is more than just a small inconvenience between Elk River and the Mountain on US 40.
The City has spent a great deal of money to alleviate the problem, but the design, funding and future growth needs have outpaced the solution – if there is one.
Developments in the west Steamboat area (three at last count), along with developments in town and at the mountain, will put more pressure on the community and make traffic congestion even worse.
City Council recognizes that there will be a “west side” traffic problem in the future because the City Capital Improvement Plan lists expenditures of $35 million for transportation projects 2019 through 2024 if the WSN annexation is approved (see the financial time-line in the Annexation proposal).
West Steamboat Neighborhoods has offered to pay $4,947,530 as its contribution – $292,000 (5%) as an up-front impact fee and $5,264,744 (95%) more in deferred fees by the year 2034 . However, these deferred fees depend on sales. So if sales don’t go as planned WSN revenues will default and instead, the City (we) will have to pay.
Note: The Colorado Division of Transportation has a backlog of one billion dollars in road construction and maintenance. Two statewide proposals to provide money for transportation went down to defeat in the last election, and there is no funding for the foreseeable future for northwest Colorado. Given this situation, the City cannot rely on government grants to fund a majority of these costs and leaves the City at financial risk at a time when they are facing a challenge to balance the City’s budget.
WEST U.S. HIGHWAY 40 ISSUES
The question that seems to be at the forefront regarding the proposed Brynn Grey annexation is whether it will provide affordable housing.
While this important factor is up for debate, the capacity of Highway 40 corridor to handle growth in west Steamboat, has been virtually ignored in recent city council and public discussions.
This 191-acre parcel with 450 housing units will ultimately have three access points–one being the yet-to-be developed Slate Creek Road, the extension of the Gloria Gossard Parkway and, eventually, Routt County Road 42. Each of these access points require traffic to access the subdivision by traveling through the 13th Street intersection, the community/transit center stoplight (which already causes traffic backup in both directions) and continue until at least the Elk River Road intersection.
Highway 40 from 13th Street to the Elk River intersection is already over-stressed. Even with the recent “improvements,” we still have only one lane in each direction which already causes congestion and traffic delays.
I have been astounded that city council and the public is not addressing this problematic and potentially dangerous issue. As a 20-year resident in Steamboat II, travel from my house through the 13th Street intersection is often untenable.
Highway 40 is a major semi-truck route and is the only route for waste disposal trucks taking loads from the entire Steamboat area to a landfill. Add this traffic to that which will be generated by the combined sheriff/police facility, an enlarged bank, the 92-lot Sunlight subdivision and the 140-lot Overlook subdivision, and we will have a quagmire.
There is also on-going Copper Ridge development and the potential for 37 manufactured homes and a 16-unit apartment building near the Reserves. There are also breweries, marijuana stores, airports, the currently empty former Pilot office space, West End Plaza, and recreation in North Routt.
With all of this already existing development, we still don’t have a fire station on the west side.
Therefore, the question is not only about whether this proposed annexation will provide affordable housing, but also how it will impact Highway 40 traffic.
While West Steamboat Neighborhoods is located within the urban growth boundary, the annexation ordinance does not address crucial aspects of the West Steamboat Springs Area Plan including that it does not provide a “significant quantity” of affordable housing and it does not minimize its contribution to Highway 40 traffic and 13th Street intersection volumes by ensuring a “comprehensive roadway and transit system.”
Although the proposed plan envisions being a “self-sufficient” community with a village center, business offices, a school site, and even a “Clark Store” type of convenience store, that is a fantastical idea and logically unfeasible.
West Steamboat residents are always going to travel through the 13th Street intersection and eastward. It’s the reason we live here. There’s Mt. Werner, Howelsen Hill, the ice rink, swimming pool, “real” grocery stores, the post office, library, schools, school sports and productions, hospitals and medical offices, churches, banks, movie theaters, downtown Steamboat events, and shops and restaurants. The list goes on.
City council has approached this annexation agreement with blinders on hoping that somehow future development in West Steamboat will “trigger” an intergovernmental agreement between the city, county and CDOT to fund the widening of Highway 40 west of downtown Steamboat. Although improvements have been done between 13th Street and Elk River Road, the impact is currently marginal with one lane in each direction, narrow sections with concrete rock barriers and flooding.
Access to the development from the Gloria Gossard Parkway and Slate Creek Road will place great strain on Elk River Road and Downhill Drive. Further, improvements beyond the Elk River intersection to Downhill Drive and Slate Creek Road will be hindered by existing structures and by the Yampa River and steep terrain.
The U.S. Highway 40 corridor traffic capacity is the most critical issue that needs to be considered about a development of this size, even with a build-out period. This development, even in its scaled-back version of Steamboat 700, is still too large for West Steamboat until these issues are adequately addressed.