City council approved an amendment to the Capital Investment Program budget to allow a supplemental $41,870 for the 38th Avenue Corridor plan. However, the amendment provoked a lengthy discussion about the various issues concerning 38th.
The money will go to Entelechy Design in Denver for a design contract extension. Entelechy completed the initial phase of the 38th Avenue project. Part of that initial phase was the implementation of the 2012 road diet or restriping the road down to three lanes from five.
The road diet serves as a precursor to a permanent narrowing of the road to support 38th being more of a destination and less of a thoroughfare.
The diet has had some unforeseen consequences. For one, an increase in congestion, because there are fewer lanes, has caused some motorists to speed on adjacent residential streets. People have said that 38th is also more dangerous as a result. That danger has prompted some to reconsider whether 38th truly can be a town center.
“I won’t drive 38th avenue anymore ... It’s a hazard to drive up and down that street,” said former Councilwoman Wanda Sang. “I may go back about 60 years and tell you that 38th Avenue was never a commercial area ... I don’t think that you’ll ever make it that way.”
The discussion came as a result of a memorandum created by District 1 Councilmember Jerry DiTullio. In the memo, DiTullio referenced section 5.20 of the city charter.
The section outlines the process for street width designation disputes, specifically how the dispute can eventually be settled by a vote of the people in the district if enough property owners protest and petition a particular change. DiTullio said that before council allocates another $41,000, they need to fully investigate the possibility of a legal protest. If it comes down to that, DiTullio believes that it would be best for council to mitigate certain minor but divisive issues surrounding 38th, including back-in parking and the inclusion of bike lanes.
“Bud” Starker, councilmember district 1, Tim Fitzgerald of district 3 believe it’s best to remain focused on the future.
Fitzgerald said that Wheat Ridge is a drive through town and the way to change that is to build some that will entice people to stop.
“We’re not living 60 year ago. We’re living today and our vision of today should look forward into the future,” Starker said.