INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS

All New Intersection at Laporte and Loomis

There are some significant improvements in the works for an offset intersection in an Old Town neighborhood. While most are pleased with the proposed changes, there are a few who believe the redesign will make the intersection even more dangerous for pedestrians.

 

Back when much of Old Town was not very old, there was no such thing as “City Plan” in Fort Collins. There were no rules about how a new neighborhood should be laid out. And there was no concern about streets lining up at intersections. When cars only traveled at 10-15 mph, navigating an offset intersection wasn’t particularly problematic. Cross traffic wasn’t moving at a dangerous speed. And besides, who could afford a car?! Most people walked, biked, or used some form of transportation that involved a horse or two.

How the Loomis and Laporte intersection has worked in the past.

Image from Google Maps with modifications.

But over the years, as cars became more dominant, offset intersections increasingly became a problem. The Laporte School used to sit at the northwest corner of the Loomis/Laporte intersection. (Note, the school in Fort Collins located on Laporte Avenue was called the Laporte school. The school located in the community of Laporte has always been called the Cache La Poudre school. Well… except when it was District 4.) With kids needing to cross Laporte Avenue, a crosswalk was added. But for reasons only known to God and perhaps a few retired City planners, the crosswalk was placed almost mid-block between Grant and Loomis. (See the green arrow above.) It’s possible the crosswalk lined up with the entrance to the school. But when the Laporte school was torn down and replaced with Fullana School, the entrance was moved around the corner to Grant street and the crosswalk led to a break in the playground fence, but not much else. 

The shortest distance between two points rarely comes with a crosswalk and lights.

Most pedestrians ignored the crosswalk, since that would require them to travel a block out of their way just to cross the street. And most bicyclists did their best to cross Laporte when the way was clear, but motorists often used the far right bike lane in order to travel straight (in an effort to be closer to the continuation of Loomis Avenue across Laporte), blocking right turning bicyclists and motorists.

The proposed new design at Laporte and Loomis in Old Town West.

Image from the City website.

The proposed new intersection will force motorists to remain in their lane. Bicyclists will be protected with a raised cement island on both north and southbound Loomis Avenue. They’ll also get a flashing crossing light to alert motorists to their presence. Pedestrians will also be able to use the crossing light, and pedestrian markings will be laid out indicating that folks can cross the intersection diagonally — from the southeast corner to the northwest corner. This provides the shortest crossing distance, enabling pedestrians to be in the road as little as possible. 

But not all neighbors are happy with the proposed changes. Though pedestrians will have a shorter route from north to south, the new design requires pedestrians on the southwest side of the intersection to first cross Loomis, then Laporte, essentially doubling the number of opportunities for pedestrian/motorist interactions.

Offset intersections are difficult to realign. To truly line-up the north and south ends of Loomis Avenue would require purchasing land from the school district and at least one or two local residents in order to reshape the street. And such reshaping would not necessarily improve the safety of the intersection for bicyclists or pedestrians.

Given the constraints, the proposed solution should provide improvements in both actual and felt safety levels. But, as with all infrastructure changes, the proof of the pudding will be in the tasting — or in this case, the proof of the improvement to the intersection will be in changed usage levels and crash statistics… hopefully all for the better.

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