Ralph Gleckler and his Siberian husky, Whisper, used to enjoy a quiet morning walk through their Falcon Estates neighborhood.
Today, they find themselves dodging commuter traffic that roars through the rural subdivision situated north of Woodmen Road and Academy Boulevard, one of the busiest intersections in Colorado Springs.
The widening of Woodmen and construction of an interchange at Academy is causing perpetual gridlock.
And motorists are using their onboard computer navigational devices to find the otherwise obscure access points in Falcon Heights to escape the traffic jams.
They are ducking off Woodmen and roaring through the neighborhood. Folks along the main short-cut routes like Gleckler and neighbor Janet Shea are suffering.
It was bad enough when Colorado Springs’ explosive growth brought an onslaught of commercial development to north Academy Boulevard, resulting in dozens of Falcon Estates homes being replaced by big box stores, restaurants and shopping centers.
The remaining neighbors found themselves living behind huge walls and dealing with lights, traffic noise and other byproducts of urban sprawl.
Now, Falcon Heights is dealing with rush-hour traffic. It’s not exactly what developers had in mind when they created the neighborhood in 1964.
It was envisioned as a tranquil place where officers from the Air Force Academy could build houses on 1- and 2-acre lots, keep and ride horses in a rural setting and enjoy a quiet life on the outskirts of Colorado Springs.
That tranquility has vanished as the cut-through traffic increases. The majority of the motorists hit the 25 mph neighborhood at 35 mph to 40 mph, said Dave Krauth, the Springs’ principal traffic engineer.
Gleckler and Shea say it’s not unusual for commuters to hit 50 or 60 mph.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot the city can do to help, Krauth said.
When Falcon Heights agreed to be annexed in 1994, its residents insisted the neighborhood retain its rural flavor behind the walls. They wanted to be free to keep and ride horses. And they didn’t want sidewalks, curbs and gutters lining their roads.
Without curbs and gutters, the city loses most of the weapons in its aresenal to combat cut-through traffic. Normally, Krauth would reach into his bag of “traffic-calming devices” and pull out speed humps, or medians, or curb bump-outs to slow and discourage commuters.
They don’t work if motorists can simply drive around them. And they will, Krauth said. Shamelessly. It doesn’t help to erect stop signs, either.
Absent heightened police speed patrols, traffic is free to roar away. Some neighbors are trying to discourage speeders with their own little signs. But it doesn’t help, folks say.
Krauth said a speed radar sign will be used to discourage speeding. Otherwise, residents will have to grin and bear it until the construction project is finished in the summer of 2011.