The Mud Springs Bypass battle shrank Wednesday to a handful of people listening quietly to the Surface Transportation Advisory Committee discuss a dozen "traffic calming" measures like stop signs, raised crosswalks, traffic circles, bike lanes and speed humps.
Residents living along Phoenix Street have crowded public meetings for months to protest plans to extend Mud Springs to Highway 260 based on fears the route would become an improvised highway bypass shuttling out-of-town weekend drivers from Highway 87 to Highway 260.
The town council approved the project, backed off, approved a roundabout design contract and then backed off that, in response to a sequence of public meetings.
The council sent the project back to STAC, with instructions to figure out how to prevent the route from becoming a bypass that would endanger residents along the route.
But in the meantime, the town also completed a traffic study that concluded the extended route wouldn't carry enough traffic to even justify a signal or a roundabout at Highway 260.
STAC held an earlier public hearing that drew nearly 100 residents who made suggestions for ways to slow and limit traffic on Phoenix Street and the extended Mud Springs.
Town Engineer LaRon Garrett then went through all those suggestions to come up with recommendations for nine top-priority traffic calming changes, three second-tier suggestions and four more ideas in case heavy traffic once the route is completed requires "drastic" action.
About a dozen people attended the meeting and listened as the STAC members went through the options, working off a big color-coded map showing the locations and priorities of the proposed changes.
STAC members had varying reactions and, in the end, directed Garrett to refine the suggestions, combine the first and second priority changes and present a final plan at a future meeting.
Committee member Jim Hippel questioned whether STAC ought to recommend any of the changes, based on the traffic study.
"What is the urgency of these calming suggestions in terms of timing?" asked Hippel. "If there is no need, there is not much point in putting them in."
But Garrett said that public concern and the council reaction demanded some action.
"From a logical standpoint, what you say is reasonable. However, based on current council direction, at least the level one changes should be tied to the construction extending Mud Springs," he said.
On the other hand, STAC Chairman Tom Loeffler favored combining the first- and second-priority traffic calming ideas.
"I would like to make sure that we alleviate the concerns of the residents that if we don't do enough we're going to have a bypass here...I don't really see anything here that's going to cut down on speed or volume and I think we need to make sure those items are adequately addressed."
Newly appointed member Bob Dalby, an outspoken opponent of Mud Springs who promised not to actually vote on the extension when appointed, also supported including several items from the second tier of ideas. "It would certainly reduce a lot of anxiety of the citizens in Pinyon Ridge, Elk Ridge and Rimview Heights."
Garrett said he tried to strike a balance between slowing down out-of-town drivers on summer weekends trying to do an end-run around highway congestion and causing great inconvenience for residents all year round.
"If I'd put in everything that was asked for, the people in Rimview Heights wouldn't like me very much because they couldn't get home anymore. If we go with what's on this list, I have a feeling that a lot of people in that area would still be unhappy because of the inconvenience they would have to live with -- in my opinion Level 3 changes are overkill."
Several audience members spoke, a faint whisper compared to the parade of angry residents at previous meetings.
Ginger Henry expressed concern about whether a proposed raised sidewalk would bounce school children out of their seats every day on the way to school, since school buses will have to negotiate the calming devices and raised crosswalks.
"They don't have seat belts on those buses and I can see kids going blink, blink, blinkety blink all the way across those things." She advised warning Frontier Elementary School officials of the proposed change.
Shirley Dye said residents remained trapped between fear of dangerous traffic buildups and the hassle of stop signs and speed humps. Residents "want to keep it simple, but they want it to work. They're caught between a rock and a hard place."
In the end, STAC directed Garrett to essentially combine the ideas in the first and second tier with another round of study to make sure they would work in concert.
The list of suggestions included:
- A stop sign at Mud Springs Road and Highway 260
- Retaining the existing roundabout at Mud Springs and Granite Dells
- Installing a raised crosswalk north of Frontier Elementary School.
- Keeping the existing three-way stop at Mud Springs and Phoenix
- Keeping the existing four-way stop at Mud Springs and Cedar
- Installing a trail and barring parking to narrow the street through Rimview Heights
- Painting a striped bike lane and barring parking on a section through Elk Ridge and Pinyon Ridge
- Installing a raised crosswalk at the drainage crossing
- Retaining the existing three-way stop at Phoenix and Ash
- Installing a traffic circle at Phoenix Street and Milk Ranch Point
- Installing a traffic circle at Phoenix and Promontory Point
- Installing a speed hump on Phoenix Street east of Elk Ridge Drive
- Install a diverter island to prevent cars from turning onto the street at Frontier and Mud Springs
- Install a diverter island at Phoenix and Ponderosa
- Install a diverter island at Phoenix Street and Sycamore
- Install a traffic island that prevents cars from turning off Highway 87 onto Phoenix Street