Fort Collins infrastructure ranks higher than US

The City of Fort Collins is constructing a world-class, multi-faceted transportation system for everyone from car drivers to bike riders.

Deputy Director of Planning, Development and Transportation Mark Jackson is enthusiastic that the current and future construction projects going on around town will improve safety, relieve traffic congestion and provide commuters with effective options to get where they need to go.

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“We think we’re pretty progressive. We think we’ve got a very clear vision of where we’d like to go with the transportation in the community and (we’re) trying our best to get there with the resources we have available,” Jackson said.

The city is currently in the middle of a number of construction projects and have several more planned for the future. Enhanced Travel Corridors (ETC) is an ongoing project of major importance to the city’s Master Street Plan, according to Jackson. These projects include improvement to the existing infrastructure and additions of express buses and other forms of rapid transit to main streets including Mason, Harmony, Elisabeth and Prospect streets.

“(Improvements to) primary transportation corridors are going to have an emphasis not only in vehicular movement but also on the enhanced transit perspective,” Jackson said of the projects aimed at improving direct travel across the city.

This collective approach at improving the city’s roads, sidewalks, bike paths and transit is in tune with the recommendations made by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.

“The ASCE really believes that the infrastructure needs to be looked at holistically, not just roads and railroads,” said Robert Victor, who headed the committee that created the 2013 report at the national ASCE level.

The most recent report card released in 2013 gave the U.S.’s infrastructure an overall grade of ‘D+’. While individual cities do not receive grades, Colorado received at ‘C+’. These scores indicate room for improvement, and the city of Fort Collins clearly understands the need to constantly review its comprehensive transportation plan and identify the latest issues.

“We always have an eye on the future and really building towards what the ultimate goal is,” Jackson said.

While problems such as safety and congestion are the most pressing issues in the short term, the city hopes that future planning and data driven research can help provide convenient solutions for students and citizens alike, according to Jackson.

“I think the Max Rapid Bus System will be a game changer for how university students, faculty and staff can access the main campus,” Jackson said.

Sometimes these goals require large financial investments, but occasionally they can be reached through education and changing behavioral trends. For example, many of the problems with the nation’s problems with overflowing landfills and excessive solid waste in the 1970’s and 80’s were solved not by costly construction projects but a national movement towards recycling according to Victor.

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“We didn’t solve that problem by spending a lot of money. We changed our habits; we’ve changed our behavior as a country,” Victor said.

Indeed, problems involving traffic congestion may ease over the coming years as more Fort Collins citizens choose public transit over driving their own vehicles. Many students, including Jenna Blakely, a sophomore majoring in psychology, choose to ride the bus rather than drive because of fuel costs.

“It’s all about gas really, about saving money,” Blakely said.

While construction persists and these changes slowly take place, the city asks for student’s patience and their feedback.

“There are numerous ways to engage in a project from a community perspective. I think it’s great to have (the student’s) perspective at the table,” Jackson said.

Collegian Reporter Isabella Heepke can be reached at news@collegian.com.