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Two road projects in Cañon City generate mixed reaction from residents

CAÑON CITY, Colo. (KRDO) -- This Fremont County town will have more road construction this year than residents have seen in a long time, and they have differing opinions about whether it's a good idea.

One project started in December: Construction of a center median and installation of six pedestrian crossing signals on US 50 on the east side of town, between 1st and 15 streets and dividing downtown from the Arkansas riverfront.

Planning for the project began in 2015 with the formation of a corridor study and a pedestrian safety team, with a goal of increasing pedestrian safety, slowing traffic and reducing the possibility of accidents.

"A team of C-DOT (Colorado Department of Transportation), staff, citizens, business owners who looked at all the various options for pedestrian crossings -- overpasses, tunnels, at-grade crossings -- just different changes that could be," said Leo Evans, the town's public works director. "And the project that you see here was their preferred alternative."

CDOT is covering around 90% of the $4 million cost, he said, with Cañon City paying the rest; he also explained that the project should be finished before Memorial Day weekend to avoid interrupting the start of summer tourism.

"To speed it up, we're doing it all at once rather than in phases," Evans said.

However, some residents contacted KRDO13's The Road Warrior and expressed concern about the project adding to traffic congestion in the already-busy corridor and hurting sales for nearby businesses.

"We're down 75%," said Brooke Ramos, co-owner of Los Compas Mexican Restaurant. "It definitely has slowed us down because nobody is able to turn in from the highway. So, people have to go down the alleys -- and tourists don't know that because they don't live here. So, locals are going to have to figure out how to get here."

"We've been trying to help with additional signage, changing our traffic control and staging to get better access (to businesses) while things are going on," Evans said.

He added that the pedestrian safety team has also studied future changes to the east side of US 50, which is a wider and busier corridor.

"Those changes will focus on closing all of the frontage roads along the highway," he said.

The second Cañon City project started in 2016 when voters approved a 1% sales tax to fund Project 2A, a ten-year program to pay for expanded street paving -- similar to the 2C program passed by Colorado Springs voters in 2015 and renewed in 2020.

Evans said that the city has spent $22 million to pave 13 miles of streets since 2A began.

"We may ask voters to renew the tax because we still have a lot of work to do," he said.

Mark Dewey said that he'll vote against any renewal.

"We've given them a lot of taxes for a lot of different things and when they approved the taxes for the roads, other things kind of popped up here and there, that seemed like, why is that getting done and not the roads?" he said. "So, that's the question a lot of people have."

Evans said that the city tries to be responsive to public concerns and questions by providing a website that monitors paving progress, and setting side time for discussion at City Council meetings.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.


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