Traffic and Growth
The Old North End has a serious traffic problem. Besides the more than 100,000 cars that travel on I-25 every day, only a few blocks away, almost as many cars travel on neighborhood streets like Nevada, Cascade, Fontanero, and Uintah. The “North of Downtown Traffic Task Force” was formed to address this problem. The “North of Downtown Traffic Task Force” represents a cooperative effort between the Old North End Neighborhood, the Near North End Neighborhood, the Patty Jewett Neighborhood, and Colorado College. This group has met ten times in the last year, between June 2000 and June 2001, progressively expanding its membership as it’s gone along.
The primary focus of the group so far has been to seek internal consensus on solutions to our traffic problems. We have also met with city officials, provided input to City Council such as on the recently approved Comprehensive Plan and the Intermodal Transportation Plan, and acted as a clearinghouse for traffic concerns and complaints.
The group has faced a challenge in reaching consensus. Some members feel that alternative transportation is the only solution to our traffic problems, and that it should be the group’s highest priority. Others feel that reduced traffic speeds are the only realistic goal. Still others feel that limited road closures and other traffic diversion measures are critical, e.g., suggestions to close the intersection of Wood and Uintah have been made repeatedly. In response to these divergent goals, the task force has formed a number of subcommittees targeted towards different specific aspects of the traffic problem.
City government has shown a great willingness to listen to the problems and solutions put forward by the task force. However, even the most modest traffic-mitigation measures may require substantial amounts of money. Given the city’s budget shortfalls, which were serious enough before the recent economic slowdown, finding the required funds is a challenge.
We hope that the citizens of Colorado Springs will recognize the value of preserving its historic areas. Colorado Springs has some of the best preserved, most beautiful, and largest historic neighborhoods in the country. These are a vital city asset, comparable in value to natural features such as Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods. Currently, most of the historic areas in Colorado Springs have extremely serious traffic problems. Modern neighborhoods have cul de sacs, winding narrow roads, and limited access to prevent their use for arterial traffic. Our older neighborhoods have wide straight centrally located streets based on a grid system, making them irresistibly tempting targets for accommodating increased traffic at no direct expense to the city. Modern neighborhoods increasingly are fighting new schools, group homes, apartments, and other development that might increase their traffic by, say, 80,000 cars a year, claming that such an increase endangers their neighborhood. But most of the historic areas in the city already have numerous schools, group homes, and apartments, and receive more than 80,000 cars EVERY DAY. The historic neighborhoods cannot remain healthy if the city continues to trample on the fundamental principles of residential use with its traffic policies.
The historic neighborhoods in Colorado Springs have traditionally been a locus for city leadership and have provided stability during economic downturns. Because of the large military and missionary presence, many Colorado Springs residents are transient, they never get involved in the larger community, many never even visit the older areas to see what “old” Colorado Springs is all about. Such transients cannot provide leadership for Colorado Springs, and they’ll leave when times turn hard. The best thing Colorado Springs can do for the long term is to enhance its older neighborhoods, via sensible traffic policy, so that they can continue to serve their traditional roles in the city. It doesn’t make sense to focus just on new growth to the exclusion of preserving what’s already here – its like stooping to pick up dimes while quarters fall out of your pockets. We hope the North of Downtown Traffic Task Force can participate in building a role model for such traffic policy, implemented successfully in a limited area, which can then be duplicated in historic areas throughout the city.