- Photo by Rich Tosches
- Adding a median and tightening the lanes are some of the citys tactics to make Orchard Valley Road a safer path in northwest Colorado Springs.
Almost every day, someone in the Mensa club that is our Colorado Springs City Council whines about budget shortfalls and downward spiraling revenues and how the village is going broke. This makes some people in exquisite homes on a short road in the upscale Peregrine neighborhood laugh so hard they have to dislodge the Beluga caviar from their noses.
(I'm just kidding, of course. They have servants to clean out their noses, loyal servants who are dearly loved by the rich people and accepted just like family members, servants who don't even gripe about the task. Unless they want to find themselves in the morning on an old bus heading back to Guatemala.)
Anyway, the reason for the laughter is their road. It runs less than a mile, having been built and opened a few years ago. Then the complaints began complaints from the people who live in some of the seven houses, that's right, seven houses that front the road, including a charming little 10,000-square-foot cottage that appears in no way to have displaced more than 800 to 900 deer.
About two years ago, the village began trying to appease these folks who go figure bought their homes on a road they didn't like.
Since then, on this short stretch of road in the northwest part of town, traffic engineers have built a mind-boggling series of what they call "traffic calming devices." There are four speed bumps, several thousand feet of new curbs, seven fancy-colored concrete medians with the cement "stamped" to look like brick, and other things engineers call "bump-outs" and "chicanes."
The cost to us, the ignorant taxpayers, for the additional work on this short road: about $150,000.
Let's take a closer look at a road that should, frankly, come with Dorothy. And happy, singing munchkins.
It's called Orchard Valley Road, a true modern Colorado Springs road in the sense that developers bulldozed the orchards that stood there for 100 years because the #$%&@ apple trees were in the way.
Connecting Centennial Boulevard and Woodmen Road, it's a frightening passage, twisting along on the side of a hill at an alarming drop of 10 degrees. Not to get all "geography" on you here, but a 10-degree angle is very steep, a pitch exceeded locally only by the slope of our City Council members' foreheads. ("Geico Insurance: So Simple Even Mayor Lionel Rivera Can Do It.")
Former City Manager Lorne Kramer and current city traffic engineering boss Dave Krauth say the steep, dangerous road shouldn't have been built. But believe it or not, developers slipped the road past our City Council first distracting the grunting group with something called "fire" and then really throwing them for a loop by displaying a "wheel."
"I think, today," says ex-city boss Kramer, "a road like that wouldn't be approved."
So there's the dangerous design.
Throw in the fact that our village's snow-removal workers apparently hate to leave the house when it's cold. Or snowy.
And, as you know, the typical Colorado Springs motorist apparently took driver's education at the Elderly Foreign Woman School of Driving.
All of which has added up to more than 20 single-vehicle accidents on Orchard Valley Road in the past few years, nearly all during the winter and involving speeding and skidding vehicles headed down the hill. (Unofficial road motto: "Wheeeeeeeeeee!")
Today, the obstacles force motorists left and right and back again, funneling them into 10-foot-wide lanes with cement curbs licking at the tires on both sides. The chicanes also do something else: They wipe out the bike lanes, forcing our friends in their tight rubber pants to swerve into vehicle traffic lanes.
"It is simply unbelievable," said Elaine Chavanon, pausing recently as she drove between her Woodmen Road home and her Centennial Boulevard business, "that anyone would design a road like this."
Then she looked at all the medians and curbs and narrow passageways.
"But to be honest," she said with a smile, "part of me can't wait for the first snowstorm. I might just come up to watch."
Listen to Rich Tosches every Thursday at 8 a.m. on the "Darren and Coba Show" on MY99.9.