US 6th and Heritage Interchange Design Community Meeting

On Wednesday, February 24th, members of the Golden Public Works department and residents who live near the congested crossing of US Highway 6 and Heritage Ave aka the Great Bottleneck of Highway 6 gathered on Zoom to discuss the long-overdue redesign of the busy, dangerous interchange. This meeting was prompted by an incident in early February when the traffic light lost power due to extreme weather and traffic on US 6 backed up all the way to Boulder.

Background on the intersection design was given by Tom Harding, Director of Public Works. The interchange was designed in 1956 by a Mines undergraduate student for their Senior Project in City Planning. After the horrific flop that ensued, CSM has ceased offering City Planning as a topic of study, replacing it with Economics.

Four different designs were proposed to replace the four-way traffic-light controlled intersection: 1) a typical roundabout, 2) a giant roundabout 1 mile in diameter which would require the demolition of Earth Treks climbing gym and the Jefferson County Government building complex, 3) a double roundabout with no signage, and 4) leave it as-is. 

While the majority of the 72 participants applauded these proposed designs, especially the ones incorporating roundabouts, a noticeable silence was observed from Sara Stummer, an active resident who frequently attended these community hearings. “Sara – what’s wrong – don’t you like roundabouts?” Tom Harding, the director of Public Works whose home is actually a small cottage located at the center of a large secret roundabout on top of Lookout Mountain asked. “There are no bike lanes in any of these designs, and I know that I am not the only cyclist who fears for my life every time that I enter this intersection,” she complained. “This redesign should improve the safety of cyclists and pedestrians, and not just prioritize the needs of people who drive 4-Runners.” Tom blinked, and after an uncomfortably long silence he asked, “What is a cyclist?”.

The remaining hour and a half of the meeting was spent discussing what sort of art feature or public amenity should be featured at the center of the roundabout (it was decided unanimously that Option 2 was the best design). Someone suggested that the rubble generated from demolishing Earth Treks should be cast into the center, and perhaps the rubble pile could serve as a new climbing gym. This idea was vetoed since it might encourage high schoolers, elk, or climbing bros to dangerously enter the roundabout, and since no pedestrian amenities were being considered for this interchange, the idea of a rubble heap was dismissed. The winning idea was to place an elk statue, similar to the one on S Golden Rd, but large enough to span the mile diameter roundabout. Mines MME students would be employed to cast the statue, using scavenged rebar, coins, electrical conduit, and bathroom fixtures from the demolished climbing gym and government buildings as material for the statue. 

At several points, Sara tried to interject that this meeting was a critical opportunity to incorporate designated paths for cyclists, pedestrians, and joggers who also use the intersection. Tom likened this to redesigning the King Soopers parking lot to add stalls for flying saucers. He ridiculed her suggestion as far-fetched, ludicrous, and a waste of tax-payer dollars, explaining that: “Bicycles, just like flying-saucers, are toys for children but as mature adults we know better than to consider them as viable transportation options.” Fed up, Sara carried her laptop over to her garage to show Tom her commuter bicycle, equipped with a sturdy rack for groceries and lights for riding at night, far from a silly toy. It dawned on Tom that he had indeed seen a bicycle several decades prior at Burning Man. Not wanting the citizens of Golden to get any ideas about sex, drugs, and EDM, he used his Zoom host privileges to cut off Sara’s camera and muted her microphone. Other participants, enraged, followed her lead and began to show off their bicycles. One by one, Tom muted and hid all of them, until the meeting attendance dropped from 72 to 3. Relieved, Tom leaned in close to his microphone and uttered the words that Golden city planners had waited all night to hear. “Shall we put in a roundabout?”

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