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College Drive road diet weighs heavily on some locals

After enduring “improvements” to College Drive, several of us citizens want to stop the planned complete destruction of this corridor. If the changes that have been made so far weren’t so horrible, this situation might be humorous. East Third Avenue to Main Avenue is a nightmare of design incompetence. What is the proper procedure for ending this mess? We need to save College Drive while there’s still some of it left. Sign me, “Caught in the Middle and Stranded”

Before going down that road, let’s do a quick drive-by of what the city envisions for the artery formerly known as Sixth Street.

College Drive and East Eighth Avenue are scheduled for “traffic calming” and a “road diet.”

Such sobriquets so beget so many so-so regrets.

Take “traffic calming.” Most adults respond poorly when a condescending nanny state calls for a time-out.

The city of Durango will spend about $2 million over the next couple of years to reconfigure College Drive to improve safety along the thoroughfare.

Likewise with the distasteful term “road diet.” When Big Brother informs you that you’re getting a bit porky, it begs this question:

“Does this street make my asphalt look fat?”

You don’t have to be a roads scholar to see that’s a dead-end.

Instead, the College Drive project is a “Complete Street,” transit lingo for roadways that incorporate as many modal elements as possible.

Durango long ago abandoned the roads-are-for-cars mantra, as transportation policies focus on moving people, not on moving automobiles.

Thus, College Drive has been designated a “Tier 1” priority project.

About $2 million will be spent over the next couple of years to reconfigure the road, most notably four lanes will become three, with the middle lane designated for left turns only.

Action Line caught up with interim City Manager Amber Blake to chat about the project over coffee.

The College Drive makeover isn’t some feel-good boondoggle.

It’s designed to improve business visibility, increase left-turn capability, maintain traffic flow, create Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant accessibility, help bicyclists and reduce the number of car crashes.

Above all, Amber stressed, it’s a safety project.

“Improvements are based on years of data,” she said.

Between 2011 and 2015, there were 207 wrecks on College Drive between Main and East Eighth avenues, most of them sideswipes or rear-ends.

When vehicles stop in the left lane to make a left turn, traffic behind them comes to a stop. Many motorists respond by a quick veer into the right lane, resulting in a sideswipe.

Additionally, when vehicles stop in the left lane, conditions accelerate for rear-end crashes if drivers are distracted or stop too quickly.

Of course, there are no bad drivers in Durango so that’s not an issue.

If you want to stop this project, show up and protest. “It’s a public process,” Amber said, making it clear that the city listens.

“The Multimodal Advisory Board meets the third Wednesday of every month at 4 p.m. at City Hall,” she said. “That’s the best place to start.”

Barbara Noseworthy is city councilor liaison to the board.

Also, City Council will vote on funding, Amber added.

Remember that democracy is a numbers game – and with road projects, it’s safety first.

There are no second chances for third-rate four-wheelers in fifth gear on Sixth Street!

We’d be in seventh heaven if East Eighth Avenue wouldn’t have to wait until the ninth inning to be a tenth safer.

So if you want to protest, it’s the eleventh hour before the Twelfth of Never to keep College Drive as it is, a prospect more frightening than Friday the Thirteenth.

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if your road diet consists of two Egg McMuffins and a large coffee from the drive-thru window.

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