Boulder moves forward with 30th Street underpass

The controversial new 30th street bike path and underpass are a go. This new path and underpass will soon be one of the core veins that will lead to a greater network of trails. One less excuse to not get out and ride.

Below is the information that we have received

Seeing the big picture on controversial transportation project
There has been much debate over the underpass and multi-use trail near
the intersection of 30th and Pearl Streets. We believe this project,
which has been on multiple city plans for many years, is important in
maintaining the vision for Boulder as a city with fully integrated
transportation options where people of all abilities can choose to
safely bicycle and walk. Thankfully, city council chose to look
forward and embrace that vision.
Unfortunately, many of the facts around this project have been either
poorly articulated or misstated. We hope to clear this up here.
Installation of the underpass is part of a larger project that
includes replacing a failing bridge, adding bike lanes and wider
sidewalks and creating a connection to the Goose Creek Path on the
east side of 30th Street. The underpass path is part of a plan for a
multi-use path that will connect the Twenty Ninth Street retail and
new residences to the Transit Village and east Pearl and the new
Valmont City Park. To build the underpass will require the removal of
trees on both sides of 30th Street at the ditch. This is the cause of
the controversy.
Despite general impressions, only 14 – 16 trees, not the entire grove,
are slated for removal. According to the city arborist, these trees
are expected to live another 15 to 30 years, although being Willows
and Siberian Elms, they often fall apart before they die. Thanks to a
design charette hosted by the city, several refinements to the project
were made that included saving 11 -13 trees (among them some of the
larger ones) and not disturbing the deck at Ras Kassas.
Additionally , the city is adding features like public art from
African artists (integrating concepts from neighboring businesses),
colored concrete, hanging vines, new trees and landscaping and
possibly a trellis. New landscaping and design treatments will well
outlive the existing trees. According to many national studies, when
businesses are located on a multi-use path, business actually
increases due to greater visibility. With better access, more people
will be able to enjoy this wooded area.
The trees are far from protected, even if the underpass were not
built. There are no conservation easements on the trees. Once the
Transit Village and other development occurs in this area, property
values will rise substantially. As a result, there are no guarantees
or protections that the landowners will not sell their properties to a
developer who will cut and scrape the property, including the trees.
Also, the ditch company is permitted to come in at any point, with no
warning, and cut down all of the trees.
The bridge on 30th Street between Pearl and Walnut has been rated at a
47 out of 100 points for safety. It is recommended that any bridge
scoring under 50 should be replaced. If the city had chosen not to
build the underpass, it will have had to refuse the money for the
bridge replacement and pay back more than $500,000 already spent on
design to CDOT. If the bridge were to fail and injure people or
worse, lawyers would have a field day with the fact that the city
turned back money to repair the bridge.
Those in wheelchairs and those who are physically challenged will
benefit significantly by this underpass. This population is often
transit dependent, so getting to and from the Transit Village safely
is an important issue. At street grade crossings for this population
are inherently dangerous because of timing and failure to yield rates,
as we have seen recently with accidents at these types of crossings.
These people will be essentially cut off from the Transit Village and/
or other Twenty Ninth Streeth and 30th Street destinations. A lot of
new residential development is going up in this area. Providing bike/
ped access for these people to and from the Transit Village is
imperative to reducing traffic and getting these people out of cars
and on bikes or foot. A 400-unit apartment complex, the Residences at
Twenty Ninth Street, is going to be developed next to Macy’s. Full
build out for the Transit Village is over 3000 new residences and
2,900 to 4,300 new jobs. This projected growth means that large
numbers of people will need to be able to safely walk and bike in this
area. On-street bike and pedestrian crossing will quickly become over
capacity and unsafe, especially for children, the elderly and those
with disabilities.
This project is part of a larger effort to tame sprawl in Boulder
east of Folsom, where the street grid falls apart and large “super
blocks” of chain retail dominate. By providing a safe, attractive,
human scaled space for bicyclists and pedestrians, through the system
of bike paths proposed in this area, we can make east Boulder more
walkable and people friendly. This type of planning , done by
restoring the street grid either through small streets or bike paths,
encourages more of the type of development we like to see in Boulder—
small, locally based businesses with pedestrian-friendly access,
rather than large national chains and sprawling asphalt parking lots.
Returning the federal grant would mean rejecting $2.6 million dollars
which would help support the Boulder economy and Boulder businesses.
That is federal money for construction projects that will get
allocated elsewhere in the region if it is not spent here in Boulder.
Given the struggling economy and need for good jobs, it does not seem
sensible to be refusing this federally money.
We would like to commend city council and city transportation staff.
Staff did an excellent job listening to public comment and redesigning
a project so that it still meets engineering guidelines and funding
timelines, while creating a design that is more sensitive to the
environment and the neighboring businesses. City Council had the guts
to make a difficult decision that was forward thinking. We feel this
was the public process at its best.
Finally, we would like to invite everyone in Boulder to pledge to eat
at Ras Kassas at least 3 times during construction. Help this business
survive this difficult construction period and honor the sacrifices
they are making on behalf of bicycle and pedestrian safety.

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