CDOT meeting

Anyone who can should plan to attend a public meeting from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. this afternoon at the Durango City Hall. The meeting will be a joint effort by the city of Durango and the Colorado Department of Transportation to discuss and get public feedback about proposed changes to the west intersection of U.S. Highway 160/550 (by the DoubleTree) and the intersection of Camino del Rio and College Drive.

Those intersections are central to traffic flowing to and through Durango, and as such the town needs them to function smoothly. Right now, though, that is not the case.

During high-volume times of the day, vehicles are sometimes backed up as much as 1,000 feet. CDOT engineers currently give the Highway 550-Highway 160 intersection a service-level rating of “D.” With the proposed work, they think they can boost that to “B,” and keep it at that level for 10 to 15 years.

What is really needed is an $8 million to $9 million fix to add capacity to the intersection, but the state lacks the money for that. Instead, CDOT is proposing a $3.3 million plan that, while not a comprehensive fix, would make for more continuous flow through the intersection. It would do that largely by adding a left-turn lane for northbound traffic trying to turn west on to Highway 160 toward Cortez.

The new plan also calls for a median to be built on Highway 160 that would make it impossible to turn left onto 160 from Roosa Avenue. That should be a major improvement to safety. Drivers making that turn have led to any number of crashes over the years. That median would also improve safety for pedestrians and pets crossing Highway 160 on their way to the Dog Park.

All that sounds reasonable, but the public needs to see the actual proposal, check out the maps and weigh in now.

Durango will be living with whatever fix is implemented for some time, and its residents need to know that the community’s needs were fully considered as well as those of through traffic. CDOT’s mandate is to ensure the smooth flow of traffic statewide. The needs of local traffic are not its top priority.

The city and the public have to bring those issues to the table – and this is the time for that.

There are also plans for the intersection of Camino del Rio and College, and as well as the next block north at Camino and Seventh Street.

Camino and College would be widened somewhat and given better striping, both of which should help keep traffic from overlapping lanes and make left turns easier.

Possibly more controversial is the median planned for Seventh and Camino. It would prevent left turns by drivers on Camino onto Seventh and is meant to also improve pedestrian safety.

There might be complaints about eliminating the left turn there, but that actually seems like a good idea. Left turns there are of little benefit to downtown and can contribute to the traffic jams to the south.

The more troubling aspect of that intersection is the pedestrian crossing. Members of the public attending today’s meeting should feel free to point out to CDOT that while the median might help, the real problem with crossing Camino on foot is the confusing and dangerous signal.

Neither drivers nor pedestrians are clear on how they are supposed to react, and somebody is going to get killed.

CDOT needs to hear about that, as well as any other concerns local highway users have about that busy stretch of road.

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