Opinions differ on Lone Tree tunnel plan

Jane Reuter
Posted

At first blush, tunneling under Lincoln Avenue seems a practical and simple way to create a safe pedestrian crossing between the city’s north and south sides. It is anything but.

That’s why the Lone Tree City Council is struggling with the idea more than three years after it was proposed. While the city has managed to bring the price tag down from the $3 million estimated in 2008 to about $1 million, it’s also narrowed the potential sites to one. The proposed tunnel would parallel one used by golfers at the Lone Tree Golf Club, traveling under Lincoln between Lone Tree Parkway and Yosemite Street.

The city council wants to hear from residents about the idea. It’s placed the topic on the agenda for its 7 p.m. Aug. 16 meeting.

The city hosted a small community meeting about the proposed golf course tunnel in July, but it was poorly attended. Most of the residents who came oppose the idea.

But city staff and council members say it’s the only viable site.

Although Lone Tree, at just 16, is a relatively young city, it’s already too well established to make such a project easy. Existing infrastructure under Lincoln eliminates the most logical sites, including the intersection of Yosemite and Lincoln, and east of Park Meadows Drive near Heritage Hills Circle.

An overpass is even more problematic because the Americans with Disabilities Act would necessitate an elevator or ramp to serve such a structure, making it more expensive than a tunnel.

Lincoln Avenue cuts a wide and busy swath through Lone Tree, drawing an almost constantly moving line between the city’s north and south sides. Popular amenities are scattered on both sides of Lincoln: On the south the recreation center, Lone Tree Arts Center and a growing network of trails, and on the north the library, city pool, elementary school and civic center.

Voters rejected the idea of an underpass in 2008, in large part due to the projected $3 million price tag. Since then, city staff has closely explored the corridor for potential crossings, and more closely pinpointed the cost.

“There’s an identified need,” mayor Jim Gunning said. “The question is, how do you fill it?”

Not with a golf course tunnel, golfers say.

“It’s a distraction to them and a dangerous situation to the golfer and pedestrian,” said Bill Ramsey, manager of golf for South Suburban Parks and Recreation, which owns the Lone Tree Golf Club. “

Sue Rosser, who sits on the South Suburban Parks and Recreation board, said the tunnel design would keep pedestrians and cyclists as far from golfers as possible, but she worries the site – which will require bicyclists to divert from trails to reach the underpass — would prove too tedious for most.

“I really think the tunnels work best when the trails go right into them,” she said. “People, especially kids, take the most direct route. I’m not sure if I were a kid in a hurry and late for school that I would do a big U to go under a tunnel.”

Rosser said she wants to find a solution and is anxious to hear suggestions.

“I’m really mindful of the fact that Lincoln is a major barrier to people living on the other side,” she said. “That’s apparent to all of us. I would love to hear from citizens who really want this, and have felt they were in danger by not having some sort of tunnel there thus far.”