COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Lots of changes are coming to the east side of Garden of the Gods, as part of an $18 million project to improve the movement and safety of traffic, pedestrians and cyclists.
The project will focus on a two-mile stretch of 30th Street between Fontanero Street and Mesa Road, and include the park's main entrance at the Gateway Road intersection.
Highlighting the project is a roundabout at the entrance to reduce traffic congestion, and moving the iconic sign slightly to the northwest along the Foothills Trail.
"Much of the congestion results from people parking at the sign and getting out to take pictures," said Robin Allen, a civil engineer for the city. "By moving the sign, we'll make it more of a destination you'll have to walk to instead of drive to."
Roundabouts are disliked by many drivers but various studies have shown that the traffic-calming structures are safer than traditional intersections.
"As you're entering the roundabout, you're coming in at a slower speed versus what you might see on the east coast -- which is called a rotary -- where you're entering a traffic circle at a much faster speed," Allen said. "So it's a totally different geometry, and the modern roundabout is much, much safer."
Visitors who spoke with KRDO NewsChannel 13 were generally positive about the project.
"I'd rather be in a roundabout than waiting for a traffic signal to change," said Chris Marovich, of San Diego.
His wife, Amber agreed.
"I think they do help keep traffic flowing, unless you get somebody in there who's never been in a roundabout, and that could be problematic," she said.
Deborah Sapache downplayed the suggestion that a roundabout would be an eyesore.
"I don't think it's going to take away from the beauty of Garden of the Gods," she said. "It does make traffic flow a little easier."
Also included in the project: Widening and improving 30th Street; building a walkway for the Foothills Trail under Gateway Road (similar to a configuration that connects to the Visitor and Nature Center); and building a temporary road between 30th Street, the overflow parking lot and Gateway Road to serve as the main entrance from the south.
Construction will require the temporary closing of 30th Street between Gateway and Mesa roads.
"The city has been working for the last four years with multiple stakeholders, multiple community groups to develop design for the project," Allen said.
She added that the project will take from 18 to 24 months to complete, with work scheduled to continue through winter.
Colorado Springs is contributing $3 million to the project, with the rest funded with federal dollars.
Other entrances to the park are from Ridge Road, Garden Drive (from the south in Manitou Springs) and Rampart Range Road (from the mountains to the west).
The city said that the park averages around 4 million visitors annually.
Initial construction begins today, October 22nd, on the 30th St Corridor Project, according to a press release from the city. The project will being with a temporary detour for the Foothills Trail. Trail users will be diverted to the detour starting Monday, October 25th. Then starting on November 4th, 30th St. will be closed in both directions between Gateway and Mesa roads through Spring of next year.
Access to Garden of the Gods Park, including the Visitor & Nature Center, will be maintained throughout the project. The Phase 1 detour route will direct traffic to use Centennial Boulevard and Fillmore Street to enter Garden of the Gods Park from 30th Street south of Gateway Road. During this phase, the park will not be accessible from Garden of the Gods Road by car. Detour notifications will be posted on major access routes. Mesa Road will remain open for local access only.
While work is underway, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are asked to remember that heavy construction equipment and workers will be operating along 30th Street and the Foothills Trail. The active construction area will be defined with signage, and it is important for users to obey directional and safety signage in this area. Please reduce speeds and use caution around equipment and work crews.
Phase 1 construction includes the following:
- Temporary Foothills Trail detour to be built between Gateway Road and Chambers Way
- Water quality detention pond to be built west of 30th Street near Chambers Way
- Temporary access road to be built at the entrance of Garden of the Gods Park at Gateway Road. This will provide vehicle access to the park from the south, while the new entry roundabout is built.
The 30th Street Corridor Project will improve 30th Street from Fontanero Street to Mesa Road. It will improve safety and mobility; stabilize hillside slopes; improve water quality; and create a more effective emergency evacuation corridor for northwest Colorado Springs. For additional project information, visit ColoradoSprings.gov/30thStreet. The public can also call (719) 315-3102 or email 30thStImprovements@gmail.com with questions.