By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Carbondale’s elected leaders on Tuesday agreed that a map of safe routes through town — produced recently by the advisory Bike, Pedestrian and Trails Commission — should be posted to the town’s web sites as a way of letting people know what streets are considered the safest for nighttime travel.
The Board of Trustees also agreed to a number of “next steps” in making the streets as safe as possible at night, including adding lights to the east-side pedestrian trail along Highway 133 at the north side of town; and installing a sidewalk along Village Road at Gianinetti Park, where people currently must walk either in the road or through the dark park.
The trustees further concurred with the commission’s finding that another step should be taken soon — to address “deficiencies” on North Eighth Street, where the sidewalks are narrow and in some spots nonexistent — but acknowledged that the money is not available right now to accomplish this and other projects supported by the commission’s findings.
The commission was directed last fall to study the linked issues of lighting and safety on Carbondale’s streets, after assaults on two women last summer brought out dozens of citizens to complain about how unsafe they felt when walking or bicycling alone around town at night.
But, as noted by Darryl Fuller, chair of the BP&T commission, “The town has been working on this for some time” even prior to the assaults last summer.
He pointed out that work on the 2013 Comprehensive Plan included hearings on multi-modal transportation and related issues, and that the 2015 Parks and Recreation Master Plan contained recommendations similar to the ones offered this week by the commission.
One key finding, which first came up last year during meetings about the safe-streets effort, was that the Rio Grande Trail that cuts through the north side of town should not initially be targeted for increased lighting, simply because many locals avoid that trail at night because it is too dark, too closed in by fencing, and generally feels unsafe.
“We heard almost universally that people just opt out of using it at night,” Fuller said of the commission’s work to gather public input on the issues.
Instead, he continued, the commission was told “there are other priorities” to be pursued, such as identifying streets that already are lighted well and are considered safe, or streets that can easily be made safer by the addition of lighting and by increased use by the public.
“If we can educate people to use these routes, there is safety in numbers,” Fuller declared.
Mayor Dan Richardson, who serves as the town’s liaison to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which owns and manages the Rio Grande Trail, said RFTA has indicated it is willing to help the town improve the safety aspects of the trail at some point.
But the trustees generally approved of the commission’s finding that there are other, safer routes to be taken by the public at night.
Among those “nighttime priority corridors” are Eighth Street and Village Road (despite their deficiencies), Main Street, South Second and South Third streets, according to the map, which also identifies “priority corridors” for travel in general. Those include the Rio Grande Trail, Weant Boulevard, and Sopris Avenue.
Furthermore, the map shows “important future connections” that include the Cowen Drive from its intersection with Highway 133 to Village Road; and Snowmass Drive from Main Street to Sopris Avenue, which has no sidewalks on either side of the roadway.
The trustees generally approved of the document and the recommendations from the commission, while conceding that there still is work to be done to satisfy the public demand for safe streets.
“I think this is a real good start for us,” said Trustee Marty Silverstein. “It is not the end.”
Also at the Tuesday meeting, the trustees:
• Approved a list of priority energy-efficiency projects, submitted by the Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE) and the Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) organizations, which have worked for nearly a decade with the town to decrease Carbondale’s “carbon footprint” and help local homeowners and business operators improve the energy efficiency of their buildings;
• Approved special event liquor license for events planned by the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (April 6, Third Street Center) and the Blue Lake Preschool (April 7, The Orchard);
• Approved a powerline undergrounding project by Holy Cross Energy, with financial participation from the town, for power lines in the area of Miner’s Park.