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Fort Collins Coloradoan
Hope could be on the horizon for some of you beleaguered South College Avenue travelers.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado this March, backups caused by increased traffic at the Raising Cane’s and Starbucks drive-thrus have plagued the establishments’ stretch of South College.
In the four months since the Coloradoan first reported on the increased backups, Fort Collins interim traffic engineer Nicole Hahn says they remain a problem. But a proposed expansion of the Raising Cane’s drive-thru and the forthcoming addition of a new Midtown Starbucks drive-thru may finally ease congestion for good.
In addition to installing signage ahead of Raising Cane’s, 2108 S. College Ave., indicating possible congestion in front of the restaurant, Hahn said the city has continued to discuss improvements and longer-term fixes with both Raising Cane’s and Starbucks, 1708 S. College Ave., Hahn said.
Since first closing to dine-in service in March, Starbucks reopened its cafe to 50% capacity about three months ago. While Raising Cane’s is still not offering dine-in service, its building is open for grab-and-go takeout orders.
Jams outside of the respective establishments persist, though, resulting in a slight uptick in rear-end crashes reported at the entrances to their drive-thrus. This year, Starbucks’ driveway at 1708 S. College Ave. has been the site of two rear-end crashes, up from zero in 2019 and one in 2018.
The driveway at Raising Cane’s has been the site of three rear-end crashes this year, with one reported in both 2019 and 2018. Most of the crashes were fender-benders with no injuries, according to Hahn.
“We’re excited to see businesses in our community be successful, but we need to take care of the safety issues we’re having with the businesses on College,” Hahn said.
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On Sept. 16, Raising Cane’s requested a minor amendment from the city to allow it to expand from a single- to double-lane drive-thru to help alleviate cars stacking in the drive-thru and spilling out onto South College Avenue, according to the city’s developmental review center.
The construction of an improved patio at the front of the building was also included in the request, with hopes it would allow more customers a space for outdoor dining, according to a summary of the request on the city’s website.
Developmental review staff has a virtual project review meeting with Raising Cane’s Wednesday, but a timeline of when the project might be completed depends on several factors. Raising Cane’s did not respond to the Coloradoan with a comment on the project or when it might be finished as of 4:45 p.m. Tuesday.
Starbucks’ drive-thru underwent changes back in 2013 to create more space for cars to stack without spilling out into the street. Because of these years-old changes, there is little else the coffee chain can do to further ease congestion, former Fort Collins city traffic engineer Joe Olson told the Coloradoan in May.
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The city will continue to monitor Starbucks and keep an eye on potential modifications, while also speaking with them about some educational outreach opportunities that could let drivers know to be careful while traveling in the area, Hahn said.
“We are committed to being a good neighbor and member of the Fort Collins community,” a Starbucks spokesperson told to the Coloradoan. “We are working alongside city officials to discuss additional measures we can implement to alleviate congestion.”
Starbucks is also hoping the forthcoming opening of its new drive-thru location at 4218 S. College Ave. — formerly a Burger King — will disperse the coffee shop’s customers and ease congestion at the 1708 S. College Ave. location.
Preliminary plans for the new location were filed earlier this year, and the project will move forward, ultimately opening as a 2,654-square-foot coffee shop and employing a staff of 15, the spokesperson confirmed Friday.
No timeline or opening date is currently attached to the project.
Hahn said she’s excited about the potential amendment to the Raising Cane’s drive-thru, which she’s hoping will bring about long-term change on South College Avenue.
While looking at improvements and modifications to ease traffic at the two South College Avenue sites, Hahn said the city is hoping to find the right solutions that fit during not only this period of pandemic-related drive-thru traffic increases, but also once COVID-19 is no longer driving traffic patterns.
“It’s really this difficult balance,” she said.
Erin Udell reports on news, culture, history and more for the Coloradoan. Contact her at ErinUdell@coloradoan.com. The only way she can keep doing what she does is with your support. If you subscribe, thank you. If not, sign up for a subscription to the Coloradoan today.
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