Mall, Mercury reach accord on traffic signs

Way clear for credit-card firm to begin construction

A yearlong battle between Mercury Payment Systems and the Durango Mall ended Monday with what could be viewed as peace signs.

The city’s Design Review Board approved two new mall signs crucial to settling traffic issues related to Mercury building a new office complex to serve 700 or more employees and possibly house other commercial property just south of the mall.

Approval of the signs was the last step in a negotiation that will allow Mercury to begin construction this month.

Technically, the credit-card processing company did not need the settlement to go forward. The mall had dropped its lawsuit just before Christmas, but the settlement allows for safer traffic flow to the new office campus to be called Mercury Village, according to city officials.

The mall’s southern access off U.S. Highway 550 will route traffic to a new extension of Turner Drive. Traffic can then proceed directly to Mercury Village or turn left at a three-quarter intersection at Translux Drive and head north for the mall.

The mall had requested permission for two mall signs at Turner Drive and the highway and Turner Drive and Translux Drive to direct traffic. They will look like other mall signs with stucco color and white lettering.

Translux Drive is the road in front of the Storyteller Movie Theater. Denny Ehlers, lawyer for the mall, joked that the road should be renamed “Denny Drive” because of his role in the long and protracted negotiation.

The mall owners have worried about the traffic impact of Mercury employees and patrons entering the mall’s main entrance at Sawyer Drive and then crossing the mall parking lot to Mercury Village.

“That would have only increased the load on Sawyer, which then would have required improvements (sooner than) otherwise required,” said David Smith, the city attorney.

“I think everybody respected and understood that,” he added.

Under the agreement, Mercury and the city would allow the mall to control Translux Drive. Besides the road, the mall will be getting 8,492 square feet for space from Mercury for the signs.

A median at Translux and Turner will prevent traffic coming from the mall from turning left into Mercury Village.

Traffic coming from Mercury, however, could still make a right onto Translux so employees could go shopping after work.

The mall also will reserve the right to make further adjustments if traffic is overloading its parking lot and Sawyer Drive, Ehlers said.

Smith, the city attorney, acknowledged the possibility that the mall could close off Translux Drive altogether, but that would be contrary to the mall’s interest in not wanting to overload Sawyer Drive.

Mercury would still have another entrance since a loop will be built under the highway’s bridge over the Animas River to accommodate highway traffic coming from the north.

But Ehlers acknowledged that the mall’s interest in keeping its southern access open as traffic studies have shown 60 percent of its customers come from the south.

Because of the convenient access to the highway, officials do not anticipate any problems with traffic overrunning the mall parking lot.

“Traffic is like water. It takes the path to least resistance,” Smith said.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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