RALSTON RD CORRIDOR PLAN TO BRING DEVELOPMENT — COUNCIL DEFERS TO ADVISORY GROUP


August 3, 2011
by John Kiljan
In a 59-minute recorded study session, the Arvada City Council reviewed a $15.2 million plan for the reconstruction Ralston Road between Wadsworth and Kipling on July 25th.  A more formal request for approving the plan and starting preliminary engineering is expected soon.
As expected, a “Four-Lane Compact” concept was presented as the preferred design choice.
The plan also calls for substantial multi-use and multi-story development along the corridor along with a slowing of peak-hour speeds.  The consultant said that the City planning people also supported a change to mixed-use zoning along the corridor.  The consultant said that there was great public support for development along the corridor.  About 2/3rds of workshop attendees said they wanted development.  Even nearby residential neighborhoods were supportive of development.  They were looking for amenities such as restaurants.
Much of the presentation and plan material discussed how the City arrived at its recommendations by eliminating alternatives and with public polling.  Video of this entire study session can be viewed online at the link below.
This Four-Lane Compact design was widened from an earlier one that had been shown at public meetings.  That was done to add trees to the center median.  However, a poll tabulation appended to the plan also showed that participants did not favor widening the median to add trees by a 56% to 34% margin (page A-28).
Several Council members expressed concern about the on-street parallel parking called for in the plan.  The design consultant said that a store-front environment along the road will require on-street parking.  He also said that peak-hour traffic speeds should come down with this concept and that it has worked well in other communities.
Councilor Dyer seemed unconvinced and persisted by asking for examples of this type of on-street parking on similar city streets that he could go and visit.
The second most popular design concept in the public polls was for a “None of These” alternative.  (FLC = 33% and NoT = 25%.)  This prompted Councilor Dyer to ask if no alternative designs were proposed by citizens during public outreach.  The Council was told that the only other alternative proposed was for a freeway type of design with very limited access that would be pedestrian unfriendly.
The consultant said that was a pretty good result since typically about 20% of the public never want to do a public works project and many people who can’t decide often vote that way as well.
The Four-Lane Compact proposal also calls for closing off the center left-turn lane except at signalized intersections and at Estes Street.  The consultant said that this would clearly be a controversial element of the plan, but that drivers would adapt.  Council Cook asked about the traffic-flow impacts of doing that and asked for more analysis of how drivers would reach residences and businesses.  That is expected to be done as a part of preliminary engineering efforts yet to come.  Traffic simulation will be included in that work.
Councilor Cook also asked if the newly formed Ralston Road Advisory Group could be used to review the plan and provide feedback and be a sounding board for public concerns.  Other Council members agreed with that approach.  The City traffic engineer said that was possible but that it might take three months of moving forward with preliminary engineering to get the traffic simulation data needed to do that.
City Staff will soon make a formal request will be to proceed with preliminary engineering (at a 30% level) for the plan under a consultant contract.
Funding suggestions in the plan were varied and included seeking federal funds (requiring an EIS), sending a bond issue to the voters or packaging a bond request along with other capital improvement needs in the City, setting up a special funding district (presumably with new sales and/or property taxes) or incorporating the corridor into the existing AURA urban renewal areas at each end of the corridor.
The amount needed to construct only the designated “connecting corridor” is $4.2 million, but Ammons to Yukon has been left out of the connecting corridor and included instead as a part of Olde Town.  No mention was made of integrating the plan design with the needs of AURA’s developers for the Triangle and Olde Town.
Mayor Frie commented that this plan may take decades to complete.  CLRC members who have been asking for safer sidewalks along the central part of Ralston Road may not find much comfort in the proposed implementation schedule.  Assuming funding becomes available, the plan does not call for starting construction along the “connecting corridor” that runs through the central residential areas until 2018.  See page 10 of the Executive Summary for the proposed construction schedule.
The streaming video of the study session is available online at
mms://katv.arvada.org/TRMSVOD/139-1CityCouncilmeeting072511.wmv
or go to
and look for the ‘City Council Meeting 07/25/11’ link.
Slide the play marker over the 58-minute mark.  Some of the Council member’s questions and comments are mixed in with the presentation material.
WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
A lengthy CLRC News article summarizing the June 6th Ralston Road Corridor Plan meeting and the controversies that may go with it can be found by clicking on
To read the full 209-page draft final plan you have to go to the Arvada City Council meeting packet for July 25, 2011 at
The plan begins on page 38 of the packet.  Earlier links provided are no longer active and the report has not yet been posted on the City’s Ralston Road Corridor Plan web page.
And here is a copy of the study session’s meeting minutes:
* * *
MEETING SUMMARY MINUTES (extract)
July 25, 2011
B. Ralston Road Corridor Project Update
Patty Lorence, Traffic Engineer, introduced this study session, along with Jim Charlier, the City’s consultant on this project. She talked about the collaborative approach that has been used to get to this point and reviewed the members of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). She reminded City Council that there is also a Citizens Advisory Committee comprised of business owners, residents and affected parties. Ms. Lorence showed the boundaries of the project area and said everyone within the area received information about the project. She said this is the first step that has to take place. She said this is comprised of land use and transportation concepts, which would be followed by preliminary engineering, final engineering and construction.
Ms. Lorence talked about the primary project tasks which were reviewed at the last study session with City Council and reminded them of the project expectations and the Great 8 that came from the stakeholders, after being asked the question “Describe the best street you’ve ever traveled? Tell us why.” Ms. Lorence said the Great 8 are 1) Give me a great place to walk 2) Steady traffic flow: not too fast, not too slow 3) Variety of places to live, work & Play 4) parking matters 5) Conveys an authentic sense of place 6) Preserves auto travel/promotes alternatives 7) Accommodates neighborhood needs and 8) looks good/feels good.
Mr. Jim Charlier talked about the problems as defined by the TAC as they relate to transportation, land use and streetcar feasibility. He said in the area of transportation, there are uncomfortable sidewalks, narrow roadway lanes, heavy traffic volumes, high accident rates, 100 driveways in 1.5 miles, poor local traffic circulation, and it is unsupportive of transit. In land use, the primary zoning allows only for retail and office, there are dated shopping centers, a demand for more multi-family units and non-traditional housing and the market shows need for additional 200-250 housing units. For the streetcar feasibility, they are looking at corridor opportunities, mode comparison, service characteristics, RTD system integration, density requirements and current transit market and future investment.
Mr. Charlier said Ralston Road’s biggest problems include narrow lanes, the character of  pedestrian setting and the appearance of buildings. He said City goals that are most important for Ralston Road should be to promote development, encourage a mixture of housing and jobs, and to plan for commercial centers. He reviewed with Council the preliminary six concepts which were presented at the last study session and include Main Street A, Main Street B, Four Lane Compact, Four Lane with Parking, Ultimate Four Lane and Streetcar. Mr. Charlier said the Main Street B and the Four Lane Ultimate concepts were eliminated.
Ms. Lorence said the final concept evaluation included remarks regarding additional right of way requirements, capital costs, traffic diversion to parallel routes, future traffic flow on Ralston Road, pedestrian environment, bike connectivity, transit level of service, City transit operations and maintenance costs, access management and potential land uses and economic redevelopment. In looking at the public comments in response to the question about which concept would provide the safest environment, the public chose the four-lane compact. For the question asking which street concept would you prefer to see the City implement, the public chose the four-lane compact.
Ms. Lorence said the preferred concept, being the four-lane compact, includes 3-4 story buildings; mixed land uses; preserves neighborhoods; reduces building setbacks; enables future streetcar; redeploys RTD bus; safer travel; enhances grid system; high quality pedestrian environment; addresses bicycle needs; has on street parking; and phased access management. Ms. Lorence showed a 3D visualization of what the four-lane compact would look like.Mayor Pro Tem Dyer asked staff to provide him with examples of four-lane streets with the cutout parallel parking.
Mr. Charlier showed a map of the grid system and talked about the importance of looking at the whole network. He talked about the cross streets, the left turn lanes and the median. He said they do show a left turn at Estes without a signal, and are also recommending the removal of the signal at Holland and possibly at Field Street. He said the plan does call for Garrison possibly going through, but at Carr only bikes and pedestrians would go through. He said they are not recommending bike lanes along Ralston but can very adequately meet their needs along Grandview and the Ralston Creek trail. He said traffic flows and studies would be done more thoroughly in the preliminary engineering phase.
Councilmember Cook said she would like them to take a special look at people going West on Ralston who would then make a right turn so that they can then get to the south side. Ms. Cook said she would like the recently formed committee, which is an advisory committee, be used as a sounding board for these types of issues and get valuable feedback.
Mayor Frie asked if council was okay with the new committee being the sounding board and working on this project to give feedback to Mr. Charlier and Ms. Lorence. Vicky Reier said the group would be interested but cautioned that this would be in the more mechnical aspects of the engineering stage. Ms. Lorence said City Council first has to adopt the Plan and CIP funds have been asked for in the budget. She said that would kick off the preliminary engineering phase and the traffic study would be one of the first parts of the preliminary engineering.
The majority of City Council agreed that the recommendations set out in the Plan regarding a streetcar were acceptable.
Councilmember Cook asked if the implementation of this Plan provides for historic structures. Ms. Lorence said yes they are being considered based on the current survey and any identified in the future.
VII. PUBLIC COMMENT LONGER THAN THREE MINUTES
A. Chris Smith, Arvada, addressed City Council in opposition to the Ralston Road Corridor Project.
B. Eddie Lyons, Arvada, addressed City Council about the proposed speed limit for the Ralston Road corridor and the proposed parking.
C. John Kiljan, Arvada, addressed City Council regarding pedestrian safety along the Ralston corridor and said safe sidewalks need to be addressed now and not in some later phase of the project.
* * *
The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community will post more information online on its website at http://www.ralstoncommunity.org/ as it becomes available.
 John Kiljan, CLRC News: 303-423-9875 or jpkiljan@yahoo.com
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