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City of Durango plans to extend no parking zones on East Third Avenue to improve safety

Better visibility and speed monitoring expected to reduce crash rates on the Boulevard
The Durango Police Department says cars parked too close to intersections on East Third Avenue create line-of-sight problems for drivers turning onto the Boulevard from side streets. The city plans to extend no parking zones on East Third Avenue, which will eliminate nine parking spaces. (Durango Herald file)

No parking zones will be extended on East Third Avenue later this month in accordance with a traffic safety improvement plan, the Durango Police Department announced Sunday during a meeting with the Boulevard Neighborhood Association.

In an email sent to Third Avenue residents, DPD Cmdr. Ray Shupe said there have been 42 crashes on East Third Avenue over the last three years, 69% of which were at intersections. The most common locations for the crashes were at intersections without stop signs, he said.

Shupe said a lack of visibility is the leading cause for the crashes. Parallel parking is allowed on both sides of the street, and cars are able to park close to the intersections, obstructing the view of drivers turning onto the Boulevard from side roads.

No parking is allowed within 21 feet of cross streets, but that is a minimum requirement. Instead, the city of Durango plans to extend those no parking zones to 42 feet at intersections without stop signs.

The strategy will eliminate nine parking spaces on East Third Avenue. Originally, the plan was to eliminate 10 parking spaces, because a handicap parking spot was being considered for elimination, but that will most likely be retained. Shupe said the red zones should be expanded by the end of August.

DPD has also been studying traffic speeds on East Third Avenue to figure out how to better prevent crashes.

“We’ve got some covert traffic counter boxes that we just purchased. And people can’t tell that they’re out,” Shupe said. “So when people see the speed signs, obviously, it changes their driving behavior a little bit. They either see how fast they can go past it, or they slow down.”

A traffic study showed drivers traveling as fast as 67 mph coming off Florida Road before reaching 12th Street.

Shupe said DPD has been discussing options for redesigning the intersection at Florida and East Third Avenue.

“Coming off Florida, that is an area where people really speed up out of road rage and frustration on that corner, but they really speed up when they go through,” said East Third Avenue resident Becky Wigton.

Residents agreed speeding is an issue, as are lack of parking and large commercial vehicles.

Mike Todd, an East Third Avenue resident who lives south of College Drive, said speeding has become prevalent on his block. When Todd asked about accidents south of College Drive, Shupe said the police department did not immediately have crash data for that portion of East Third Avenue. DPD Cmdr. Casey Malone said there is less traffic volume and therefore fewer opportunities for crashes on East Third Avenue south of College Drive.

“It’s like a speedway down there because they can come off Third Street and speed all the way to the light,” Todd said.

Parking is an ever-growing concern for East Third Avenue residents. Many say a lack of downtown parking causes people to use East Third Avenue when going to work, occupying spots for hours at a time. While parking is a concern, residents were not upset about losing nine spots if it means road safety will improve.

For Todd, parking became such a problem that he spent part of his retirement fund to build a garage.

“I used money out of my retirement fund because I could not park in front of my house to carry groceries in,” he said.

Todd said his wife has medical issues that make it difficult for her to walk long distances, and because there is a lack of parking, she must sometimes walk a block and a half from her car to her home.

Wigton, who lives in the 1300 block of East Third Avenue, said the Smiley Building has also impacted parking on the Boulevard. She said she is lucky to have a garage, but if she has guests, there is nowhere for them to park.

When asked about the expansion of no parking zones on East Third Avenue, Wigton was in full support.

“I’m sad about losing the parking but having the red zones and less speeding is definitely the priority,” she said.

East Third Avenue resident Maxine Peterson said some drivers do not stop at stop signs and refuse to give pedestrians the right of way. She agrees visibility is poor at intersections and said speeders are prevalent.

“You really have to watch because people can come around the corner so fast,” she said. “I live on Third near College Drive and people come around College Drive and just zip around that corner.”

Peterson called East Third Avenue “the city’s free parking lot.” However, the elimination of parking on East Third Avenue doesn’t bother her because she cannot find parking in front her house, regardless.

Boulevard Neighborhood Association President Karen Brucoli-Anesi said more parking near downtown Durango might ease demand on East Third Avenue.

Shupe said there is no plan to add parking spots on East Third Avenue to replace those eliminated by the crash-reduction strategy. DPD has been working with the city arborist to clear shrubbery and other vegetation that may create visibility problems on the Boulevard. To monitor speeding, DPD will enlist help from police service technicians who are civilian employees who can issue citations.

“They are going to be stationary with hand-held LIDAR devices,” he said. “They’re going to be marking cars and catching speeds.”

Shupe said DPD and the city are using the safety improvement program to evaluate whether increased visibility and speed monitoring will decrease the number of crashes. Based on those findings, the city will decide whether additional stop signs might be needed along East Third Avenue.

tbrown@durangoherald.com

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