For the Record: Mineral Avenue Update

By John Watson
Citizens along West Mineral Avenue spent 2016 making daily complaints by email, text and social media postings in an effort to control speed, access, accidents and safety along West Mineral Avenue.  The issue exists since Mineral is the principal east/west arterial to Santa Fe/C470 and downtown Littleton and because the Littleton City Council  changed zoning along West Mineral Avenue to allow high density oversize apartment units with minimal setbacks in that location.  The complaints were:
•     Frequent accidents, & speeding,
•    Two deaths,
•     Unsafe & difficult residential access onto Mineral Avenue & for turning,
•     The inability of school buses to enter/exit Mineral during the school season,
•     Many U-turns out of the apartments during rush hour,
•    Inability for pedestrians to cross Mineral Avenue at any time

After hundreds of complaints, the City Council and City Manager directed a study of the issues and  solicitated proposals from citizens. The city conducted a series of local meetings and hired traffic engineer Aaron Heuerman, a West Mineral Avenue resident. Councilman Debbie Brinkman, Aaron Heuerman and City Manager Mark Relph attended the meetings and actually solicited citizen input. Impressive.

The citizens suggested traffic lights, lane changes,  limited U-turns, traffic light changes and widening of the “suicide lane” to turn left into oncoming eastbound traffic during rush hour.  Several months of refinement resulted in a series of three successive plans to change traffic patterns, safety, speed limits and access.  Though none of the residents were traffic engineers, they clearly understood the problems.  Many resident requests were incorporated into the staged improvements to what most originally considered an unsolvable problem.

Phase One has been incorporated.  One improvement consisted of lane changes to widen the “suicide lane” for access onto Mineral, which made it possible to cross the first two lanes and await an opportunity to get into oncoming traffic.  The traffic light at Polo Ridge, originally only for horse riding, was activated to be active during rush hour.  Since traffic patterns and distances did not allow another traffic light in this location, that proposal was dropped. U-turns were limited to one intersection considerably down Mineral, away from the busiest intersections. Speed limits were dropped from 45 mph (which means 60 mph) to 40 mph. Chief Doug Stephens had the officers use unmarked cars to stop unlawful U-turns and speeders.  The result – a few traffic tickets, no more accidents, school buses can enter/exit the subdivisions. U-turns are not blocking four lanes of traffic at rush hours. The local residents who used to accost me about “what am I going to do about it” are reduced to silence.  Ahhhh.

We must thank Mark Relph for this as well. He listened patiently. What started out  a screaming match turned into suggestions and a formal plan leading to success. Councilman Debbie Brinkman was helpful by listening as well. Traffic engineer Aaron Heuerman designed the solutions and incorporated them into the city plans.

We have a ways to go. The “pork chop” entrance along Platte Canyon is ignored by drivers and will need to be modified when the budget permits. The lack of setbacks for the apartments will create an ice field on Mineral whenever we get that kind of weather again.  Too bad the apartment impact fees were used to build a fire station at Trailmark.   But the city and its management did respond. The squeaky wheel got the grease.

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