Craig council continues sidewalk talk

Workers install a new tree on Yampa Avenue following the city's summer sidewalk project last year.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

Craig’s city council continued its ongoing discussion Tuesday about the city’s walkability, prompting city leaders to look into potential funding solutions and plans.

Councilman Sean Hovorka, who added the discussion to Tuesday’s agenda, said that he wanted to make sure that the topic remained in the forefront of council meetings — especially as public concerns are continually brought up in public comment.

“We really feel like some of the discussions about the west-end pedestrian crossings are going to require sufficient engineering and study, as well as maybe some master planning to ensure that when you cross the street, you have someplace to go,” city manager Peter Brixius said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “So you don’t cross the street and hit a curb line, and then you’ve got nowhere to go. It’s like the bridge to nowhere. We have to have a plan in place and make sure that we have safe but also effective pedestrian traffic.”

Brixius added that the city is passionate about making the community walkable, and making sure that it gets done correctly, efficiently and cost-effectively will need to be a continued conversation. He said that the city’s road and bridge department has had communication with the Colorado Department of Transportation about what potential solutions could be done for the busier streets in Craig.

Trevor Campbell, director of Craig’s road and bridge department, said that the process is not just telling CDOT what they want to build; the two groups have to come together to communicate a plan.

“Once we have a plan, CDOT’s actually going to sit down and help us devise how that plan comes to fruition, which is super helpful,” Campbell said. “They’ll use their engineering staff to help us look at the speed limits and look at guardrails, (and) look at what makes the most sense.”

Brixius said that in recent years, the city has added thousands of feet of trails to help aid the city’s walkability.

“Every thousand feet of trail you add, you know we have additional resources that get dedicated to keep that open. We can’t keep every sidewalk in town open for pedestrian traffic,” Brixius said. “But if we get a trail system that gets you to the basic important areas in town like schools, parks, commercial areas, I think those are some targets that we ought to be focused on.”

Mayor Ryan Hess, who noted during the discussion that he rides his bike or walks as much as he can, said that crosswalks that are at mid-block — between intersections and without a signal such as a traffic light that stops moving traffic — can be very dangerous.

“If there’s a pedestrian standing in the crosswalk, traffic is supposed to yield to those parties. That means they have to clear the crosswalk,” Hess said. “So we end up with those three lanes: you get the first lane to yield, the second lane doesn’t see the pedestrian when the person begins to cross. Those other two lanes may not yield like the first one does. When there’s dual direction of traffic, typically the other car sees this car stopping and stops. In three lanes of traffic, they just think that person’s turning or something, and they just disregard those slowing movements.”

With some of the city’s budgeted costs being covered by federal dollars coming in from the American Rescue Plan Act, city staff said it was possible to redirect those offset costs toward a master plan, if council approves of the allocation. On Tuesday, the four council members present at Tuesday’s meeting voted to use ARPA funds to various projects — including some going to the sludge line replacement and new playground equipment. Council also approved a separate resolution that directed over $200,000 in ARPA funding toward COVID-19 relief grants, and another $85,000 to revive the city’s small business grant program.

“I think the best expenditure of money is coming up with a master plan for the trail system, because that is the main feeder that’s going to come into how we’re going to figure out how to get across the major roadways,” Hess said. “The most expensive one is going to be Fifth Avenue West. That one’s going to be an engineering nightmare. But maybe this year, we can start with some type of phase getting into how we start the master plan for the master trails plan, which probably wouldn’t take as much as if we got into pedestrian right-of-ways and crosswalks.”

Creating the plan would also include forming a steering committee and public input. Once a master plan is put together, grant funding could be another option to help pay for any new developments.

“That’s where the steering committee would come in,” Campbell said. “You’re basically figuring out, number one: Where do I need sidewalks or trails? And then prioritizing when they get installed, and the best way to fund it. Because for a lot of trails along the highway, once you have a shovel-ready project, you’re eligible for grants.”

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