DENVER - Drivers who use Sixth Avenue near Lowell Boulevard are about to deal with a temporary off ramp closure that could become permanent.
Sixth Avenue is undergoing a major facelift between Interstate 25 and Perry Street. Multiple bridges are being torn down and rebuilt and new ramps are being constructed.
In about a month, the westbound Sixth Avenue off ramp for Lowell Boulevard and Perry Street will be temporarily closed. The lanes on Sixth Avenue will be shifted slightly to the south, making it impossible for drivers to exit at the current off ramp.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is considering keeping the off ramp closed altogether.
"The fact is, the way the road is going to be reconfigured, we're going to have to do something with Lowell/Perry," said CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford. "The way the new road will be configured, we're running into some safety issues as cars try to merge and get off the ramp."
When the construction is complete, Ford said the cars entering westbound Sixth Avenue from the Federal Boulevard on ramp would have to "weave" with cars trying to exit at the Lowell Boulevard/Perry Street off ramp, creating a hazard.
CDOT is now asking residents their opinion between closing the off ramp or moving it closer to I-25. If the off ramp were moved, it would be similar to the Downing Street/Emerson Street off ramp on northbound I-25, which has drivers exiting the highway much sooner than those streets by using an elevated off ramp.
"First I've heard of it," said Perry Street resident Lindsey Hanahan. "It sounds like it was very clearly in the works because, obviously, this Sixth Avenue thing is a huge project that's been in the works for a long time. So to just now be hearing about it is crazy."
Hanahan learned about the options in an email sent to her Thursday morning from a representative of the West Colfax Association of Neighbors. On Wednesday night, the association held a meeting to hear from CDOT about the options.
CDOT is seeking the input from residents with an online survey.
The survey lists a number of reasons as to why the closure of the off ramp would be a positive, with just one negative.
The pros of closing the ramp include:
-You will still have multiple ways to access your neighborhood from Federal or Sheridan.
-The Lowell/Perry on-ramp to eastbound US 6 would remain open to provide access to downtown.
-Improved traffic flow on US 6 will encourage drivers to stay on the highway instead of diverting to neighborhood streets.
-Drivers that use this ramp to avoid US 6 traffic would no longer be able to drive through your neighborhood. (Current studies estimate 40 percent of the vehicles that exit westbound US 6 at Lowell/Perry cut through to destinations outside the neighborhood).
-Increase neighborhood safety due to the reduction of high-speed vehicles exiting and cutting through the neighborhood.
-The improved traffic flow on US 6 has the potential to decrease the air pollutants, noise and vibrations which have a negative impact on the neighborhood's quality of life.
-Potential increase in property values in the immediate area.
-Afternoon traffic congestion period would be less than if the Lowell/Perry ramp is left open.
The cons of closing the ramp include:
-It will add a few minutes to your commute.
"So, during rush hour, I've got to get off on a really busy street (Federal) that's now busier, go to Colfax, take that busy street in and then go back south again," said Hanahan. "I don't think it's a problem that needs to be fixed. I think they have an issue in their construction plan that's going to cause a problem and this is the easy solution."
Hanahan also takes exception that the plan would stop drivers from cutting through the neighborhood at the expense of residents who live there.
"If you're serving 40 percent of the people, shouldn't you be serving 60 percent of the people? That sounds like a better alternative," said Hanahan.
The survey also has a similar list if the off ramp were to be kept open.
Keeping the off-ramp open will create a difficult traffic weave where traffic wanting to exit to Lowell/Perry would have to cross two lanes of on-ramp traffic (similar to what drivers for years experienced when traveling east on US 6 at Bryant Street).
The pros of this option include:
-Access to the neighborhood will be maintained for the time being.
The cons of this option include:
-To use this ramp, drivers will need to cross two lanes of traffic to exit.
-If this traffic weave becomes too undesirable, the decision might need to be made to close the ramp earlier than required for future US 6 improvement projects.
-Cut through traffic could continue driving through the neighborhood.
-Increased congestion and travel times through the corridor.
-Afternoon traffic will be congested for a longer period of time.
-Potential increase in air pollutants, vibrations and noise.
"Part of the reason I bought my house where I did and made the choice to be where I am was based on my access to and from town. It drastically changes my access," said Hanahan.
The resident survey was supposed to be completed by Friday, but CDOT is extending the survey for a couple of weeks. CDOT plans to have a decision in a few weeks.
"Just because we are closing it temporarily for construction does not mean that it's just an easy way to slip in a closure permanently," said Ford.