32nd Street

Fixing the section from Main to the bridge a welcome, if overdue, use of city resources

As with so many public works projects in a time of austerity, the city of Durango’s reconstruction of 32nd Street near Main Avenue is overdue. Relief that it is about to happen, however, should negate any complaints.

Now, if the Colorado Department of Transportation – and maybe even Kroger – could see fit to help out, that entire intersection could be improved. Such cooperation is unlikely, but one can hope.

“Action Line,” Herald columnist Mike Smedley’s weekly mix of wit and information, reported Monday that the city plans to rebuild the portion of 32nd Street from Main to the Animas River bridge. The work should be done in October and is expected to take no more than a week or two.

The timing makes sense, coming as it does after the summer tourist season and before it typically snows. There is no way such a project will not disrupt traffic, but scheduling it for October should result in less pain than other times of year.

It is unfortunate that the whole 32nd Street-Main Avenue mess cannot be cleaned up all at once. The road needs major work at least as far as East Third Avenue. The intersection of 32nd and Main could certainly be improved. And the access points to north City Market allow dangerous and dumb behavior. There are, however, reasons why that is not going to happen – some of them good.

The city plans to fix the street as far as East Third as part of the project to extend the Animas River Trail to the north. That makes sense and probably is more cost effective. It also is slated for next year, so it is not delayed indefinitely.

The other issues could be. City Market is private property, and its turn-ins have been there for years. The city cannot just order the store’s parent company, Kroger, to improve its existing access points.

At some point, though, it might be in Kroger’s interest to approach the city with ideas for improved access. The company might at least consider the idea.

More disturbing is CDOT’s position. The city bought land on the northeast corner of the 32nd Street-Main intersection some years ago with the idea of using it to add a dedicated right-turn lane for traffic turning north onto Main. It was to be a joint project between the city and CDOT. And now would be the perfect time to incorporate it in the reconstruction project.

But CDOT now says it lacks the money. (Interjection centered on “Bridge to Nowhere” goes here.) And the city, quite rightly, says it cannot wait.

In any case, that 32nd Street will be rebuilt is good news. And the city says it will be properly reconstructed and not just resurfaced. Asphalt quality has improved greatly in the 20 years or so since 32nd Street last was repaved, and the new asphalt will be almost twice as thick. The rutting problem that has plagued that section is not expected to recur.

Concrete was rejected in part for time considerations but also because the size and proximity of City Market keeps that section of road almost completely in shade for much of the winter. Asphalt is easier to keep free of ice and the city saw no point in replacing one problem with another.

Rebuilding that section of 32nd Street will not be the best fix imaginable; CDOT, the economy and simple reality ensure that. But for those who routinely pass that way, it is certainly welcome.